Yahoo Merchant Summit – June 2010

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Misc | Posted on 16-06-2010-05-2008

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Last week was a busy week! Exclusive Concepts exhibited at the Internet Retailer Conference (Tuesday through Thursday), then on Friday we were the Patron sponsor of the Yahoo! Merchant Summit, and on Saturday morning I moved into a new house! At the Yahoo! Merchant Summit I participated on several panels, including SEO and SEM for Managers and a site review session at the end of the day which was a lot of fun.

The highlight of the week, of course, was meeting face-to-face with many clients and partners who we work with throughout the year. As a life-long entrepreneur I have a passion for business, and I find it incredibly energizing to be around other entrepreneurs and business owners who do as well. In addition, I continue to be impressed by the Yahoo! Merchant Solutions Account Management team. These true e-commerce experts, led by Mike Ober, care about the merchants they work with and become a partner in their growth.

In my SEO and SEM for Managers panel, one of my central points was that many merchants should think differently about their marketing goals. Yes, traffic is incredibly important, but I suggested that merchants think more strategically about which traffic they seek rather than making the assumption that all traffic is equal. To illustrate my point I talked about the Consumer Behavior Cycle and how shoppers have different needs along each stage of this cycle.

For example, a shopper in the earliest stage of the cycle, problem recognition, may be very unlikely to convert into a sale, especially if your website does not have content that caters to the needs of shoppers in this stage of the cycle. As a result, it probably would not be a good idea for a merchant to commit to targeting such phrases with their SEO and SEM campaigns at the expense of phrases that are more in line with the experience the site offers. Instead, this merchant may want to commit to generating traffic from shoppers who are in stages of the Consumer Behavior Cycle that their website DOES cater to. If the merchant has good content that makes it easy for shoppers to evaluate a number of options easily, they may want to target shoppers in the “evaluation of alternatives” stage. Or, if the merchant has very low prices or other major benefits, the “purchase” stage may be a good fit.

The whole point is to commit your SEO and SEM efforts to luring shoppers that you can deliver a good experience for. This will enable you to gain a better return on your marketing efforts as conversion rates go through the roof. This mindset is also helpful because it offers a simple yet effective framework for growing a niche store: If you want to dominate your niche, engage in a long-term, systematic strategy to attract, convert, and retain shoppers at all levels of the consumer behavior cycle. This is a holistic approach.

I’m looking forward to sharing more perspectives at future Yahoo! Merchant Summit events. In the mean time, please be sure to check out the Exclusive Concepts Blog. Every day one of our experts posts a 5-minute video on one concept of Internet Marketing. The videos are free and you can sign-up to receive daily notifications by going to:

http://www.ExclusiveConcepts.com/blog

Have a profitable day!

Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) and Yahoo! Merchant Summit

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 04-06-2010-05-2008

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Exclusive Concepts will be exhibiting at IRCE 2010 next week, and will also be a Patron Sponsor of the Yahoo! Merchant Summit. I’m looking forward to meeting up with valued clients and partners.

Nik posted a summary of what we will be doing at booth #646 at IRCE next week.

In addition, you can follow Exclusive Concepts on Twitter (@ExclusiveTweet) for in-the-moment updates.

Facebook buys Parakey – The FireFox Guys

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 20-07-2007-05-2008

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Interesting news. Everyone has been talking about when FaceBook would sell or IPO, but here they come and announce an acquisition! I had made the prediction on my blog many months ago that MySpace would eventually die at the hands of FaceBook… because FaceBook would do exactly the kinds of things that they are doing… and it looks like they are moving in the right direction. They are adding hundreds of thousands of new users per day, and their users actually USE FaceBook frequently.

MySpace will cite heavy numbers, but ask them:

1) How often their users USE the service
2) What percentage of their users are ACTIVE

Bottom line is this: Just as I predicted, MySpace is not innovating. They are moving slowly. They just don’t seem motivated.

Much as I am jealous of Mark, I respect the fact that he is not just some dumb kid who stumbled upon a great opportunity in FaceBook. Well, he did just stumble on it, but once he did, he realized what he had, and now he is building something great.

Speaking at Bentley College in Waltham

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 05-03-2007-05-2008

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Several weeks ago I was invited back to Bentley to speak to Professor Shuman’s class (he teaches a great course on entrepreneurialism). Professor Shuman asked me to share my story with the students, and I was asked lots of questions about how I managed to build a company from my dorm room, and what it’s like to be a young CEO now that i’ve graduated.

I’ve done this several times over the years and I really enjoy it. Students (especially Bentley students) are not afraid to be blunt, and often what ensues is a very open conversation that includes both the pros and cons of Entrepreneurship.

One of the students who attended just sent me a nice email:

I should have emailed you a week or so ago but it slipped my mind until I came across your business card today. I wanted to thank you for speaking to our entrepreneurial thinking class. Your visit was one of the more informative and interesting presentations we have had over the course of the semester and I just wanted to let you know that it was appreciated.

- Tara

That really made my day.

Web 2.0, Entrepreneurs, and the Long-Tail

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 02-02-2007-05-2008

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For a while now, myself and many of my collegues have discussed the concept of the long-tail and the impact it will have on both the Internet and our lives in general.

In my essay, “Reflection on Joe Trippi’s ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘ ” I talked about the importance of a two-way dialogue between customer and company. In reality, the Internet fosters an integrated dialogue, rather than just a two-way dialogue, where may key stakeholders influence the discussion.

In a follow-up, “The Revolution is Happening Right Now,” I provided real-time examples of the long-tail at work, as a way to demonstrate its power.

Then, in MySpace is Dead, I took the example of a large Internet company, “MySpace,” and argued that niche sites that do something very similar would begin competing with it. It has started already.

So, what will this revolution look like?

It’s hard to predict human behavior, but here is what I think will happen.

On television we have several major television networks, and then a number of premium cable channels that cost extra.

On the Internet, while we’ve gone through cycles of expansion and contraction, it would appear now that the revolution will manifest itself in the following way:

Thousands… hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of little Web 2.0 companies will emerge, each one catering very specifically to the needs of a very small group of people through the Software as a Service model.

- Want to plan a party? Check out MyPunchBowl.com – a company whose time is dedicated solely to helping you plan the best party every.

- Like online gaming? Check out GuildeCafe – a social networking platform that brings gamers together in teams.

- Need a better tool to track your finances? Check out Geezo.

These Web 2.0 sites are popping up every day to address the needs of small niche groups in powerful and compelling ways. Some sites focus on entertainment, while others focus on personal or professional progress.

But… Web 2.0 companies that are being created target more than just consumers. Many people know of SalesForce.com (web-based CRM)… one of the first companies to deliver software as a service… but we have a client who is, in many ways, the SalesForce.com of the staffing industry. They’ve targeted a specific niche and created a product that appeals to that niche better than the goliath in the market. Have they been successful? Unbelievably so!

It’s true… in the Web 2.0 world, companies will have to either Go Big, Go Niche, or Go Home.

The interesting thing here is that while it costs a lot of money to build and distribute a television station, it costs little money to build a disruptively powerful website, at least in the eyes of the niche it targets. In fact, some venture capitalists are concerned because entrepreneurs need less and less money to build their companies (Web 2.0 companies), and the exits are likely to be small as well. YouTube aside… these Web 2.0 companies sell for good money quickly, but only few will fetch billion-dollar price tags.

In a lot of ways… These Web 2.0 companies are the enemies of the YouTube/MySpace/FaceBook world. The former gets very specific, while the latter (YouTube/MySpace/FaceBook) target everyone and their brother.

The Internet is ushering in a new era of entrepreneurism that will indeed change all of our lives… because that is the specific focus of all of these companies: To change our every-day lives, one niche at a time.

When Yahoo! sets out to do 500 things (build a great television portal, build a great movie portal, build a great financial portal, etc) they get spread thin.

When a lone entrepreneur, or small group of entrepreneurs set out to focus on building one great thing, they can direct all of their Web Innovatorsefforts exclusively on that one thing. Check out MyPunchBowl.com (listed above)… they have literally streamlined the party-planning process in a compelling way. We’ve all used Evite.com, but the workflow on PunchBowl rocks in comparison.

As you can see from the picture below… these entrepreneurs are hungry. This picture was taken at a WebInnovators event that I attended last Monday. Most of the people in this room at entrepreneus who have the sights set… not on changing the world, but on changing your world… if you fit their niche:)

MySpace is Dead

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 01-12-2006-05-2008

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I hate to break it to you Rupert… but MySpace is dead. Well, at least it is in the process of dieing. Rupert, I know you’ll tell me that MySpace is still one of the most popular websites on the Internet. You will tell me that it has tens of millions of loyal users (and growing). And you’ll also tell me that the smartest fund managers and financial gurus in the world praise you for stealing a multi-billion dollar Internet property for less than $600 million. But if you listen closely you’ll hear the fat lady warming up her vocal chords, and she’s about to give a great performance.

So, Rupert, let’s start with your first claim, that MySpace is one of the most popular websites on the Internet.

I can’t argue with this one. It surely is. I also know that it is responsible for a large chunk of Google searches. But do you remember the Altavista sensation of the late 90′s, during the Internet boom? Probably not… my guess is that you weren’t the Internet mogul then that they say you are today. Altavista was an immensely popular search engine that became popular VERY quickly thanks to the viral nature of the Internet. Despite the fact that, for a while, Altavista didn’t even own its own domain name (www.altavista.com), it proved that an online application that is much better than everything else out there will become popular quickly… simply because it is much better than the second-best option.

So what happened to the darling search engine that both the web geeks and the web masses adored so lovingly?

Google.

Google came online with this massive marketing machine and just promoted the heck out of themselves to steal market share from Altavista. Right? Well, not exactly. A couple of students launched Google, and without much marketing, Google came to be the most popular search engine on the Internet. Few people remember Altavista. Altavista wasn’t the first search engine, just like MySpace wasn’t the first social networking site… but Altavista ushered in a new era of search engines similar to how MySpace ushered in a new era of social networking… but because NEITHER of these two companies were/are truly great companies, the former became completely insignificant, and so too will the latter.

I can see you now, Rupert. Sitting on your executive leather chair, behind your big, masculine desk, which probably doesn’t even have a computer on it… talking to your MySpace chiefs.

You’ll say something like: Our user-base is growing like crazy, traffic is swelling… let’s just stay on course guys. Keep operating expenses low and focus on selling ad space. No creative missteps here… just stay the course and don’t do anything to rile the base.

Hannibal the cannibal couldn’t have said it better if he tried… despite the brilliance of Anthony Hopkins.

Rupert, MySpace hasn’t had any substantial interface changes in years. It’s impossible to navigate the darn thing… even for someone who has overseen the development of thousands of websites! It’s just not intuitive.

While FaceBook is slaving away, addressing detail after detail of user experience (advanced privacy features, a constantly tweaked UI, improving server-side performance, etc), MySpace just leaves well enough alone. Any social networking site by its nature will have an element of chaos… the goal of course being to maintain a concept of “organized chaos.” But the problem with MySpace is that it’s not organized at all… it’s just chaos. MySpace doesn’t help me to organize my world… it helps me to build a list of friends (many of whom i’ve never met, and never will meet)… while Facebook is actually trying to help me organize the world around me based on various spheres of influence.

FaceBook addresses the element of community… my community, which is complex and ever-changing. MySpace is all about linear relationships, with no profound contemplation of community.

When I log in to MySpace, I see 500 spam messages from computer hackers and guerilla marketers trying to get me to add them as a friend in my profile. Of course, these computer hackers and guerilla marketers have profiles with pretty sounding feminine names and pictures of attractive women. They think that because I am attracted to the fairer sex, I’ll add them into my profile as a friend, thus giving them access to spam all of my other friends. In sum… a cheap experience. In FaceBook there is none of that. FaceBook is a controlled, well-organized community. MySpace is just chaos.

FaceBook started out as “College students only,” but now it is growing. Alumns can join, and so can companies (and their employees). My guess is they won’t stop there. MySpace started as “all things to all people,” and despite the perception that it’s for high schools, a large percentage of its users are over 35 years-old.

What else does MySpace have to worry about? The long-tail.

What’s the long-tail? Arguably the most important concept in Internet communities. The basic premise is this… be a big fish in a small pond, rather than a small fish in a big pond. If you are a retailer, for example, rather than opening up one big sporting good website… you open up a website for fishermen, and you craft a unique shopping experience for this very specific audience. Really focus in on their particular needs. The brilliance of FaceBook is that, even though it is big, it does go after the long-tail based on the way it designs its networks. It allows me to join a “Boston” network for example, or my company network, or a “group” of people who believe in community activism (MySpace has groups… but it just isn’t the same). And again, I can do all this without the fear of spammers and manipulators.

But FaceBook’s ability to employ the long-tail concept is not MySpace’s only threat. Whenever a massive phenomenon like MySpace hits the Internet, it is an absolute guarantee that copy-cats will follow, but Internet copy-cats are smart because they get the concept of the long-tail. They know they cannot beat MySpace at its own game, and so divide-and-conquer kicks in. One student entrepreneur starts a social networking site for high school students in his home town. A web company starts a social networking website for baseball players. Another company starts a social networking aimed at yuppies. Yet another starts a social networking website for retirees. And slowly but surely, all of these individual, small social networking websites offer a better experience to its users than those users could get at a generalist website like MySpace.

As for those who want to be involved in a BIG social network that everyone is a part of… we’ll have those too. Applications that work better and faster than MySpace (like FaceBook), and perhaps, applications the aggregate data from many different small social networking websites to create one big community from many very small communities will come about.

MySpace lacks direction. And it’s not that MySpace can’t smarten up and change. By all objective accounts they are on top of their game. But if you really follow the social networking sector, and if you’ve really followed MySpace over the past few years, you’ll see very few signs that MySpace, under the leadership of Rupert, is actually a GREAT company. I’m not saying it is a bad company… i’m just not saying it is a GREAT company. You don’t have to be a GREAT company in a mature market to succeed, but you do have to be a GREAT company in an ever-changing market to succeed, and I just don’t see that greatness in MySpace. In fact, I see nothing but slow servers, an antiquated user-interface, and an abstruse, jumbled user-experience. MySpace no doubt has great programmers, server people, and staff… the question is, do they have good leadership?

So while MySpace boasts huge user acquisition, I encourage everyone to ask the question:

Do these NEW users stay and play? Or, do they sign-up, browse, and decide MySpace isn’t for them?

MySpace knows the answer to these questions. They know the percentage of their huge user base that is active, versus passive… I wonder if they will share that with us anytime soon.

My Experience at the President's Forum

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 04-10-2006-05-2008

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This morning I had the pleasure of speaking at The Presidents’ Forum of Boston, organized by The Entrepreneurship Institute (TEI). The event was attended by over 100 CEOs and Presidents of small to mid-market companies ranging in size from $3 million to $100 million.

There were some dynamic speakers today with very interesting stories to tell. Colin Angle from the iRobot Corporation spoke, as did Randy Papdellis from Ocean Spray Cranberries.

I was fortunate enough to speak on a panel with Sandy Lish of The Castle Group, and Don Kaplan of Kaplan Marketing. The subject: How to use marketing to bring your business to the next level.

An interesting discussion is guaranteed when you bring in the principal of a successful PR firm like The Castle Group, an experienced marketing strategist like Don Kaplan, and an Internet marketer like myself. That goes double when you are speaking to a group of sharp CEOs.

We didn’t agree on everything, but we all seemed to agree that businesses are best served when they take the time to develop a real marketing strategy, such that they approach marketing (PR, direct response marketing, Internet marketing, viral marketing) from a strategic mindset, rather than a tactical one.

I particularly enjoyed my fellow panelists because, although they’ve become leaders in the kind of marketing that pre-dates the Internet, they’ve still spent the time to understand and (where appropriate) embrace the Internet. Unfortunately, a lot of marketers don’t even know what the word “blog” means.

Speaking at SHOWA in Boston

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 11-07-2006-05-2008

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Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Showa School in Boston to speak to a very unique group of college students. The class was composed exclusively of female students from Japan for whom English is a second language. I was asked to talk about entrepreneurship and share my story with the class. It was a great experience indeed.

While I was prepared to receive very few questions from the students (based on anticipated cultural differences between American and Japanese classrooms), I was pleasantly surprised. The students were engaged, asked many dynamic questions, and expressed themselves quite well (no doubt to the credit of their instructors). Their English was better, in fact, than many people who claim English to be their first language!

The highlight of the event for me was when several students showed me how Japanese business men and women share business cards. Whereas the American way lacks formality (the room gasped when, during my demonstration, I received the business card and proceeded to file it away), the Japanese tradition is much more structured. The parties bow to each other, and present their business cards one at a time. The receiving party takes time to review the business card, as if confirming that it contains the all pertinent information.

It was very nice of Elizabeth to invite me, and I received a great note from Chrisann following the speech. Apparently I received “very enthusiastic” evaluations, which is great news! The class also sent me a very nice card. Here are some quotes from the students:

“To Scott: I was impressed with your great success story. I learned about American business from you. Thank you for giving us an amazing speech!!”

“I’m interested in business!! So it was interesting for me. I also want to establish my company if it is possible. Thank you so much.”

“Thank you for speaking a lot of information! It was so interesting and helped my future. Much appreciated.”

And my favorite…

“Thank you for telling your wonderful story. I respect you so much. I’ll be a career woman!! Thank you again.”

I love to see that entrepreneurial spirit!

Small Businesses Reaching For the Stars

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 12-06-2006-05-2008

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Here is a link to a nice little article in Advertising Age.

Title: “Why Small Marketers Need to Reach for the Stars”

The article talks about how Bill Gates turned down a $2 million offer from IBM, and how Michael Dell took on a $6 billion company from his dorm room.

Memorial Day Weekend

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 28-05-2006-05-2008

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The SAGE Competition on Friday was a lot of fun. I met a number of new people (fellow judges and others), and was very impressed by the teams who participated. The most unique idea I heard was from a team representing a small school from a rural southern town. Their idea was to create a co-op supermarket store to replace the Wynne Dixie that just closed up shop. They constructed a plan that was actually accepted by local planners, and are moving to construction phase. Entrepreneurship is about identifying a need and executing on it in a way that solves a problem. They did just that.

Following that, I headed down to the jersey shore (where I am now) to visit family and some friends. I just game from my sister’s soccer tournament where she assisted in the game winning goal with 3 seconds left (go Morgan!) That may have earned them first place.

This morning I went on a bike ride with my best friend growing up, Matt. We biked 25 miles down the coast and through Sandy Hook. I stole this picture from Bob:

Sandy Hook Bike Path


And this beach was an interesting find…

 
 One more day left, then back to Boston!