Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why SPAM when you can PAM?

OK, this started back when I headed up Marketing for RoboForm (RF). Here we had a large database of emails (when user's downloaded RF's software, we asked that they register (provide their email) from loyal users. Working for a one (at the time) product company, one of my tasks was how to bring in additional revenue sources.

One of the simplest ideas, and IMO a no brainer is to "second sell" our users (see my earlier post "Time to make the Donuts" ) . Even though we did not have a second product yet, affiliates and partner's products made it easy to at least sell the user something else besides RF. We had, after all their email address's brainer, right? Wrong! When I first pitched the CEO on letting me send out an email, he was adamantly against it... Being a Password manager, we were after all in the trust business. What if users thought we were spamming them? What if our ISP blacklists our IP address?

I tried hard to make the business case - after all there are protocols that protect one against being a spammer, and a lot of third party tools exist to manage mailings. The good ones start by scrubbing the list (making certain that only people who truly Opted in will be sent future mailings), and also email using their own servers. So what I devised was a method to reach out, and to second sell our users in a manner that satisfied my conservative boss. In hindsight, this new method Personalized Associated Marketing -(PAM) not only solved all issues related to emailing (spam,open rates,interest,conversions) but allowed for a much much more targeted message as well.

Figure one:
RF notifies the user that there is a new version of RF available for download, and prompts the user to download

We send the user to a trusted third party site ( to retrieve the update (This is important for other reasons that I will address in a separate post):

After the user's download is installed, we took them to a post download webpage where we congratulated them on completing the download process and offered them a link where they could view newly added features. Most importantly, note the rest (majority) of the post download page:

Here we have the users complete attention, with an offer to try another piece of software they might worries about an email getting caught in someones spam filter...the user knows exactly why they are viewing this is unobtrusive... it works!! During my tenure with RF, these PAM's converted as high as $1000 eCPM!! more importantly we did not receive ANY complaints from ANY users .

So where is the Personalized Associated Marketing, after all this is just an offer right? Wrong!, though a user would not see the sophistication designed into this behind the seen, we made it very powerful from the get go. If I was a user of RF FREE version, my PAM message would prompt me to upgrade to RF PRO. Had I seen that message on a previous upgrade, perhaps it would prompt me to purchase RF PRO but with a discount associated with it. If I already own RF PRO, it would show me a different offer. I designed the PAM so that I could filter offers (and messages) based on a number of factors. Some of these additional factors included affiliate ID (who originally referred them to RF), Language or geography, and much more... But proper product design (requirements/needs analysis) will have to be a post for another day.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Span of (out of) Control

There is a potential flaw in your Span of Control (SOC). Now this does not usually effect start-ups, but at some point in time companies are no longer lean and mean. Their span of control has grown both vertically and horizontally (as expected) to manage their growth in products/offerings, sales,user base and the staff needed to manage same. At some point this span of control breaks down, and the fast turning cogs slow to a crawl. This might be due to economic factors, competitive factors or other outside factors. We hear it loud and clear when in recession, calls of across the board job cuts of 5%,10% or even 15%. Other times, the cogs slow due to factors within the corporation, and specifically as it relates to your SOC, and how you manage it.

So as a hypothetical example, Cogswell's Cogs has a staff of Marketing,Sales, Business Development and Channel executives. Each dept. has their own SOC and all of these departments are part of yet an even larger corporate SOC. In marketing as example, you have your Executive Vice President of Marketing, Vice President of Marketing, Managing Director of Marketing, Marketing manager, assistant marketing manager, etc. For the corporate SOC you have your EVP of marketing, EVP sales, EVP Global sales, EVP GLobal Marketing, EVP Business Development, EVP of Channel sales, etc. ... already seeing the mess, right (and we're only talking about the upper layers right now!).

Lets now examine a SOC from the bottom up. Inside Sales, reports to Sales manager, Who in turn reports to the East Coast Sales Manager, Who reports to the National Sales manager, who reports to the VP of sales, who then reports to the EVP of sales, eventually reporting to the CEO. So what's wrong here, after all a CEO needs to be insulated from all these layers don't they? WRONG! and this is where your SOC is broken. SOCS need to be multi-directional.

Johny is somewhere in the middle of a SOC. He is the Director of Strategic sales at Cogswell Cogs. He reports directly in his SOC to Henry, the Managing Director of Marketing. Johny is not making his numbers because even though he has successfully lined up, and signed up partners there is a breakdown with one of the Sales Engineers (SE), yet part of another SOC! In order to get the partner up and running, they need to be trained on how to use Cogswell's cog. The problem? David, the Director of SE's is a golfing (drinking?) buddy of Henry...remember now Henry and David are best buds... and so in a functional SOC Johny should be able to reach out to the SE, and when unresponsive reach out to the SE's boss who should remedy the breakdown. But what happens when Henry, the SE's boss is also incompetent, or just unresponsive? Johny can only go so far up his SOC before he is though of as a troublemaker, or a complainer. More often then not, the Johny's of this world (usually the MOST competent of your employees) become disenfranchised, and move on to a different Cog manufacturer, where their SOC team is more functional.

So how can you protect your SOC's? Management needs to have a venue available whereby anyone in a SOC can communicate with anyone else, from a Cold Caller, to the CEO. It is one thing to tell a guy doing inside sales, that he can feel free to use this "open structure" to offer his suggestions, and gripes. It is another for it to actually take place (are you going to go over your bosses head and risk being out of a job??). Make your open structure anonymous, monitor it directly (EVERYONE in the org.), and encourage its use.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

the Net going forward

in answer to a question someone asked about the future of the Internet;

The future will be more of the same as well as what's old is new again. Recall, when "dumb terminals" were all the rage... That's where we are heading back to (think Cloud computing).

More of the same refers to more collaborative activities (Crowd Sourcing,etc). Lastly think more Convergence... Just a year or two back the buzzword du jour was "Mash-ups", and referred to adding data to a google map... Now, and more and more often a Mashup might be combining three or more applications to create a new solution (ie- Google Maps, Geo Tagging, Flickr, and a social network gives you a virtual tourist solution that tells you about where you are, and what you are looking at. Add GPS, and it is a real time tour guide).

Convergence is also only constrained by "faster,cheaper,smaller" type factors. As example, we would not be able to have had GPS enabled phones only a few years ago. This is because the GPS chip was to big, and battery drain to much. Nowadays almost every new smart phone contains a GPS chip, and battery life is no longer an issue.

Open source (and api's) is only in its infancy, and as that trend progresses, ultimately everything will talk / integrate with everything... Then it will get really fun.

The "pipe" also continues to get bigger, and as we are able to move thicker streams of data through the net (i.e. HDTV), this will open up a newer convergence where we finally will have no differentiation between our living room TV and our office PC.

I believe that we will not stop in our innovation, and what the Internet platform can achieve till I can actually hit the send button on my oven, and send my mother a Turkey that I just cooked via the net to her oven.