It seems more and more of my friends are joining Twitter. In case you didn't know you can find me at @calbucci.
Recently, SEOmoz sent an email offering the Super Duper Premium service for just a $1 for the first month. Why would they offer it for $1 instead of offering for zero?
First of all, let me say they are very smart in the way they did it in many fronts.
I can't tell you what they were thinking when they decided to do this, but way back when Sampa was talking about our pricing strategy for Premium accounts, during one of the meetings we were having someone said: "if we offer the product for a penny pretty much everybody would sign up". W-r-o-n-g.
The act of deciding if a company is trustworthy for you to give your credit card number, reaching for your wallet (which might be downstairs), get a credit card number and filling a form is a huge barrier. No matter how much of a great value you are delivering to the customer, a lot of people will simply not give their credit card number.
Now back to SEOmoz promo... If you give your customers a chance to buy something very cheap, a portion will enter their credit card information. Once you have a customer credit card information, you make any kind of future purchase much, much more hassle free, like Amazon's 1-click or Apple's AppStore.
The second reason such promotions are very effective is because they require you to cancel the subscription before a certain date. At worst case scenario, your product sucks so bad that everyone will cancel. But a lot of people won't cancel for many reasons, including:
This kind of "subscription paid-trial" has a huge retention rate, to the order of 30-50%!
Of course, a lot of the retention rate will depend on the price and value of the service being offered. The more expensive something is, the more people will remember to cancel.
A few weeks ago I saw a talk about one of those success stories after a lot of business near-death experience. For the n-th time I heard they just kept going and believing on their business, survived the downturn and became a multi-million dollar corporation with hundreds of employees.
The always skeptical bug on me kept thinking: ok, another entrepreneur telling me the secret to success is persistence and hard-work. Big deal.
How do you really distinguish if you are being resilient or just stubborn and refusing to die?
After reading a book called Leadership and Self-Deception in 2002 I become obsessed with the proposed problem at the book which is how do you know if the cause of a problem is yourself, but you can't see it (I am really oversimplifying here).
So, I raised my hand and asked... "You tell me to be resilient, but what's the difference between that and just being plain stubborn."
For the first time I heard a satisfying answer: adaptability.
The person went on to elaborate: If you adapt and persist, you are being resilient. If you don't adapt and continue persisting, you are just stubborn.
If you come to a technical background, you are more likely to think that customer only value things that you did that are very complex. For example, if you create a calculator application, people might not value as much as a spreadsheet. After all, a calculator will have only a few thousand lines of code, while a spreadsheet might have hundreds of thousands or a million lines of code.
So, the other day I saw this startup make a big deal to its customer about shipping this new "feature". The feature was nothing more than a bunch of extra design elements they could use on the service. It probably took zero or very little "development time" (it certainly took a lot of a designer time). This same startup sometimes releases some amazing technically complicated features that doesn't get as much announcement as the extra designs get it. Why? Because this startup understand the cost involved with creating a feature is not necessarily the value it brings to a customer.
More often than not, we think that a feature that took 3 weeks is way more valuable to our customers than a feature that took 2 days. If we stop believing on such correlation, we would never write features that take longer than we think the immediate value to a customer is.
If you dig deeper into this symptom you'll see that the root cause is that we use "customer value" in lieu of "business value". A 3-week feature might not bring any tangible value to a customer, but as long as it brings real business value it's worth talking about it.
There are features that are purely strategic so we can sink a partnership, there are features that are purely "infrastructure" (like a better backup) that is very hard to explain why it's important, there are features that will allow you to support another customer feature in the future (like changing the schema of a database).
Although I've been trying to cure myself of this plague ("lines of code = customer value") sometimes I still fall under that trap. But I found a solution! The best way to see the real value of a feature is to tell your customer about it and see their reaction (not email, not IM, not Twitter, but face-to-face). An alternative is to talk to some blogger or someone on the press. Do they say this is great, but don't write about it? Well, it wasn't that great then.
I hate wasting time. Most people do. Email is one of the most time consuming activities you’ll do day-in day-out. And inside of the world of email distinguishing between important and non-important emails requires quite a bit of work. Mostly because you don’t know something is important before you look at it.
What if you only get important emails? What if 99% of the incoming emails on your inbox are important? Would that help? Here are a few ways I figured out how to get less “unimportant” emails on your inbox:
#1: Unsubscribe from marketing lists
You know how it goes. You buy a product at Amazon.com and the default setting after you sign up is to receive their promotional emails. Same thing for Costco, Target, Office Depot, etc. If the email is coming from a shopping site you trust, just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom. If you do that for all “newsletters” and “promo emails” you’ll probably get 50 or 100 less emails per month.
#2: Send short emails without loose ends
If you spend a few extra minutes removing the clutter from the emails you send, making phrases clearer, making the important point upfront, and writing less content, you are less likely to get a reply back asking to explain something, or to clarify something else.
#3: Send less emails!
How many emails did you receive as a result of an email you originated? Seriously, just send less email and you’ll get less emails on your inbox.
#4: Be careful how you “close” your messages
Do you finish your emails with “Let me know if it works”, “let me know if you need something else” or “let me know if you received this”. Why? Why are you doing that to you? Why are you inviting more messages into your inbox? Try ending with “let me know if it doesn’t work”.
#5: There are other forms of communication
A big mistake is to use email as the only form of communicating with others. The biggest mistake of them all is to use email as an Instant Messaging platform. Install an IM like Messenger, AOL or Yahoo, and learn how to use Twitter. There is also the phone and walking to someone’s office.
#6: TO: myself
Hi, I’m Marcelo. I have a problem. I email myself. There, I said it and I’m ashamed to admit I continue to do that. I email myself to remind of things to do, to remind me of blog posts to write, or to keep an email-trail of something important. Now, I have to say I only email myself once or twice a week, but I know people that do it a half-dozen times per day. If you are like that, can’t you find some other alternative to track to-do items?
#7: The 3 Round-Trip Rule
How many times you’ve been on an email thread with another person that just kept going back and forth. Question. Answer. Question clarifying the answer. Question to clarify the question. Answer. Two other questions. STOP! Stand up and walk to someone’s office to talk about it. If they are not on the same building, just pick up the phone and call them.
#8: If It’s not for you…
If your name is not on the TO or CC line, it’s unimportant. Create a folder called “Inbox-2” and add rule that moves every email where your name is not explicitly on the TO or CC line to “Inbox-2”. After you are done with your Inbox you can visit your Inbox-2. If people were expecting an answer from you and didn’t get it, you just say your name was not on the TO line.
I hope this helps a few of you out there and thanks to Brad Feld to make me paranoid about email productivity.
People with years of corporate executive experience or an MBA might find it trivial to distinguish between a "Sale" and a "Business Development".
This Tweet from Jordan Mitchell got me thinking:
"Shooting for two signed bizdev deals by end of day. One signature away."
I don't know what is Jordan referring to, but quite often I confuse a sale with business development and vice-versa. Is there a difference?
What's the difference between a VP of Sales and a VP of Biz-Dev?
My uninformed mind always thought that Sales is what you do 1:1, while Biz-Dev is when you bring a channel or partner that will do the sales for you. Does that make any sense? Anyone care to elaborate.
The W3C is almost ready to declare HTML 5 official, which includes a lot of new and interesting ways to create web pages, but it took too long and it won't matter anymore.
HTML 4 is about 10 years old and the current standard. Every browser in town is capable of rendering HTML 4, but no browser has HTML 5 (although some browsers support some of the new tags).
So, the first wave of full support for HTML 5 browsers will probably be around 2010. Then another year for Microsoft to ship their version (2011). Then, you have a much, much bigger issue with adoption.
30% of the web is still using a 8-year old browser (IE 6)! You can't have massive adoption of a technology by developers until the user base has adopted the tools to support it. This means, HTML 5 will only be on 80%+ of computers by 2016 or so.
By then, the demand for Rich Internet Applications will be so high that developers won't be able to wait, so they (us) will prefer technologies like Flash (primarily) and Silverlight (once they solve their adoption issue).
I cannot foresee a future 10 years from now where AJAX will be the way to create Rich Internet Applications. As an self-proclaimed expert in AJAX and dynamic HTML, I know how painful it's to get things done, but that's not what bothers me the most. Mostly I just want to do certain things that HTML+CSS doesn't allow me to do, limiting the user experience I can deliver to end users.
Sites using HTML will still exist for 20 or 30 years, but they will become each year less relevant (how is Google going to solve the Search issue is another interesting topic).
And client applications will just be "on the cloud", like by magic. The browser will be the OS and Bill Gate's worst nightmare will become true. Five more years. That's all it will take for us to see a major shift from the client to the the cloud.
In case you have not heard. Like pretty much any other startup in the country, we have to be a bit more aggressive at our monetizations effort. The "eyeballs count" is not as significant in times like this.
So, we have increased our Advertising inventory on Sampa. Before, we used to have only two Ad blocks. One at the bottom of the page, which wasn't seen by pretty much anyone, and one link-block at the top of the page (on the region we call "Sampa Bar") that would not be displayed to site authors because we put management buttons there when you are an author.
Now, we created 9 additional ad units on the page. But don't panic, you won't be seeing 11 ads on your Sampa site. We are only going to display between 3-6 ad units depending on many factors, including on how old is your site, if the page is private or not, how frequent you update your content, if the page is a blog post, an photo album, a family tree, etc.
Basically, we've seen our advertising revenues drop by 60% in 2008 due to drop in CPM and CTR because our new User Interface made ads somewhat a "blind spot" on it.
We shipped this new ad inventory feature yesterday, and got immediatelly flooded with support emails. The problem was site owners were used to have ads on different places, so they didn't even notice it was there. When things change they got noticed. Now we'll wait a few days to see the impact on the bottomline is.
One kind of blog post that I really don't like is when people try to write well above their pay-grade in terms of business and entrepreneurship. It's when people try to create the "laws of business" based on their limited view of the world and it usually has phrases like "people should" or "startups should never", etc.
I'll be damn, but I'm becoming that blogger.
And the difference between becoming "that" blogger or not is very subtle and easy to fix.
Starting today, every blog post will be supported by real-world experiences that I have and not some hypothetical theory of how the world works. What I talk about might not apply to every startup or business, but it will certainly be based on a lesson I learned by doing it.
I was already writing like that, but I was removing the real world examples to protect friends, enemies, Sampa and myself. I'll try to be careful to not screw things up, but if I can't talk about it, I won't write about it. Instead of trying to masquerade my lessons in some mumbo-jumbo.
That's it. I can't take it no more. I can't be an outsider. I will not be the last person that I know of to switch to an iPhone. Even with my wife working at Windows Mobile, we need an iPhone at our house for competitive research. :)
Now, the tough question. I still have 9 months left on my Sprint contract. I want to know what's the most affordable way to switch to an iPhone. The Sprint contract says that I'll have to pay $200.
This is what I could do?
a) Suck it up, pay the $200 to cancel the Sprint bill (cost $200)
b) Change my Sprint plan to the super-duper cheap (probably $19/month) and pay it for another 8-9 months, but then I need to switch my number on the Spring plan. (is that even possible)
c) Try to sell my contract (I heard some websites help you with that)
Any other option that I'm missing? Has anyone switched from Sprint to AT&T to get an iPhone before their contract was over?
There was a time, where you could build significant advantage over your competitor (or on the marketplace if you were a first comer) based on careful studies, planning, strategy and pitch-perfect execution. I won't say these times are over, but very close to done.
With the Internet, blogging, Facebook and Twitter, information is flying at speeds never seen before. Instead of a lot of debate if you should name a button "Manage Album" or "Edit Album", you can simply A/B test it (if that's important to your busines) and have an answer in a day.
The Internet startups of today need to not only be fast, but also smart. And by smart I mean you are able to re-think strategic decisions quickly enough before they become long-winded dead-ends.
The faster you are able to learn, either being hitting a mark or by missing it badly, the better it is for your business. In other words, try to accelerate tough decisions so they become lessons of the past and you can move on to the next topic.