Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The TechnoSphere1: Production-Distribution & Energy Systems

Current Marketing Issues: Key Emerging Technologies  
    1. The Web Is Dead...
Where we are:
·         Death of the browser as main interface is it happening? Has it already happened? Does it matter? Although the stats are skewed, and in some cases misleading, it doesn’t really matter. If YouTube watching is classified as web browsing or video viewing is a pointless discussion from a marketer’s perspective. The question is how I get the user to see my product or message. The discussion of the inclusion of YouTube viewing is analogous to arguing about whether the video was viewed on a TV or computer. What does it matter? What matters is that the only way to capitalize on the shift with YouTube is to have something posted there. Regardless of whether YouTube is being accessed from a browser, phone, or blue ray player it is being accessed. Unlike hulu and similar sites there are no commercials on YouTube so there is a disconnect between the old media viewing and new media viewing. Instead of looking at platforms as walled gardens perhaps we should look at customers’ infospheres that way. Customers’ infospheres are like the walled cities of old. Anymore to be trying to reach a customer through old paid media is like shouting at the castle walls from the other side of the moat. What we need to do is find a way to have the customer lower the drawbridge so we can become part of the interactions that occur within the city walls. The paradox is that more integrated our communications become they simultaneously become more exclusive and individualized. The more you have access to vendors of a product the more you can afford to be picky about which vendor you use. Back to the analogy of the walled city before there was one blacksmith in town so you used him. Then suddenly you could choose from thousands or hundreds of thousands of blacksmiths. Blacksmiths were shouting at you from all directions about why to chose them. There were samples of their work and lists of why they were the best blacksmith ever. How would you choose which blacksmith was best. Well, it makes sense to ask your friends, colleagues and like minded acquaintances which blacksmith they use. Once you get enough recommendations you find that a couple blacksmiths have risen to the proverbial top. You decide that you will take the best and then recommend those to others. Those blacksmiths are now inside the walled city, the chosen vendors for that person and perhaps others connected with. You are in the walled city. How do we get invited into the city?
·         The argument is interesting whether Facebook, and analogous walled garden platforms, have supplanted Google though. Or whether as some contended the Facebook of today is just the MySpace of tomorrow. So are we chasing the next monopoly, or oligarchy, of tomorrow or are we trying to stay abreast of the innovations occurring collectively, and individually, that are currently expressed by those megalomaniacs? So is Facebook causing the death of the web or has the web itself innovated to expand to include Facebook? Are the technologies divergent or convergent?
·         As a society celebrity has always been able to sell things. We want to be like the “cool kids” and want the power, status and monetary rewards that will theoretically bring us. We want happiness, those folks look happy so we want what they’ve got. The nature of celebrity with mass media was film, television and political stars. Celebrities were ordained by those already famous or the mass media juggernauts that made them so. With the new wave of technology we have a reversal of roles. We have not only self made celebrities but also self made celebrities that then become mass media celebrities. People become celebrities based on their fan followings, their musings, their abilities or even their YouTube idiocy. The fame they posses is no less viable though from a marketing endorsement standpoint but paid media has not found the way to capitalize on the new celebrity media flow.
What we can do to improve immediately:
·         Being web based the challenge is to make sure that customers can find you when they need you. After that initial point of contact the product, and accompanying service, will have to sell itself, however, that initial contact is what the web provides for us. I suppose with the current discussion I should say the internet provides that for us although currently in our world it is the web that provides it as we are not really on the internet yet. It is an important distinction. We live and die by Google. Google natural rankings and Adwords. When we started this business Yahoo actually had live human beings looking at sites and ranking them according to their relevance. When Google search engines came on the scene our ranking went from number two to some where around 27,000th. It was like our business had suddenly turned off the lights and we were no longer in operation. That led to a long road of website redesign, tangoing with SEO optimization (and various companies promising such, and finally landing in alliance with the omnipresent Google. So what if the web is dead? I am not certain if it is dead but it certainly is changing and morphing to include apps that do not operate the way of the traditional browser.
·         We need to get into the conversation with the new internet users. We need to be accessible not just through the web or browser, as is currently the case, but also through the devices and platforms attached to the internet. The quickest, cheapest and easiest way to do this is through getting a social networking presence.
o        Create a twitter account- done
§         Easy but need to do some more research about how to effectively use this for our business
·         If this is really all a conversation and communication with customers what do customers want to hear? What are other businesses tweeting?
·         If the gauge is what would be interesting to me it is difficult as I have not been interested in starting this conversation and have not had a twitter account until now.
·         What will be interesting to folks but non obtrusive?
§         Need to modify to create a listening info structure
·         Who is tweeting to us?
·         Who is listening and responding to incoming tweets
·         How are we going to track and implement the incoming information to make this a useful vehicle of communication?
§         Signing up was easy but then we had difficulty being able to even find the business on twitter, still working some bugs out here
§         Need to connect twitter to our Facebook page, and advertise it on the main site
o        Create a Facebook account
§         This is NOT as easy as everyone is continuing to make it sound
·         Could not sign up with a generic email which they don’t announce anywhere so it took me several tries just to get the fan page set up
·         It was a phenomenally easy to set up a personal page and publish it, the business interface not nearly as easy.
·         Once it is set up connecting it with our site requires technical knowledge that will need to be outsourced
§         Once up and going some of the same concerns as the twitter account
·         Online presence IS our identity as a business, not part of our identity as a business, so it is of the upmost importance to maintain
·         We provide exceptional service and communication to our customers and need a system in place to provide that same level of service to customers contacting and responding to us through Facebook
·         Need to upkeep the page to remain relevant and interesting, keep up our side of the relationship
·         Need to figure out, again, how to use this page not only as a platform to speak (as the website is currently) but also to listen. See above concerns to work out
o        Look into advertising on Facebook
§         Google just started advertising there
o        Start a blog
§         All the same concerns, who is going to do it, who is going to respond, how are we going to digest and utilize the incoming information etc.
o        More targeted marketing
o        Post a YouTube video
§         This will likely not be immediately but would be a good way to link our online presence as the video can be posted on Facebook as well.
§         What do we want to say? Possibility of going for viral marketing with this option. Some ideas we have generated is making interesting things out of our materials, we have always wanted to make a mouse pad couch for example, with video serving a dual purpose of being entertaining and simultaneously and advertisement.
§         The YouTube video has the possibility of being a really effective infomercial for our brand. An infomercial that will have instant access to mobile phones, blue ray players, personal computers with us only having to take the resources to create the initial video.
·         Advantages
o        Effective way to get into the walled city. I am confident in our product and service that we offer that once we are in the city we can do a good enough job to stay there.
o        Utilizing the existing technologies will automatically make us optimized for viewing on a variety of devices. In other words we don’t have the capital to invest to make our website viewable from every type of smart phone. However, now with Facebook we don’t have to! Facebook can be viewed on the smart phone and is already optimized. Thus accessibility to our information will increase dramatically as the platforms have already put the programming in place for us to be accessible on a variety of devices.
o        Our competition is not in the infosphere yet, so in some senses we have a huge opportunity here
o        Increases brand validity now becoming part of the circle of conversation
Where things are headed:
·         Paid media will catch up to the new media world. Currently the Freeconomics is based on what have quickly become antiquated business models of advertising and cross subsidies. The new paid media will find a way to leverage the new conversations to corporate advantage. We will then in turn contract this new paid media to help us get more earned media and build on our owned media. What will the new paid media look like and how will it cope with the destruction of mass media? That I don’t know.
·         Very interested in the virtual world concept
o        Possibility of a second life store. We sell promotional products. Could we open a virtual store for other virtual companies to promote their virtual products? Could we then translate the virtual brand recognition to physical products?
·         Not sure
·         There is an increasing gap between the haves and the have nots
o        Exponential access to those who have access to the information will cause the gap to increase
o        Bound to have social, political and economical ramifications to the chasm
o        Not certain how this will effect our industry, our state, or even our country but I am certain it will and think it should be something we as a business, and as a country, keep an eye on
·         Is go local happening? Way to simultaneously capitalize on shift to digital while also growing locally
o        Four Square
o        Location Posting, tagging etc

    1. Cloud Computing What it really means
Where we are:
·         Still relatively physical in nature
·         Server based with storage on site
·         All our programs run on site- we have some off site backups but bandwidth restrictions make mass off site non realistic at this point. In Alaska the info structure hasn’t yet caught up to the capabilities of the technology. It is 85k to bring cable connection to the commercial building we occupy. The DSL offered in the building maxes out at a 512 upload. We have over 3 terabytes of information for well over twelve thousand customers. At a 512 upload speed off site is currently not an effective option.
·         Huge concerns over provider and security issues
o        Sensitive financial information for customers. It maybe old fashioned but I feel safer with information being stored on something we have physical control of. I realize that ultimately with the remote accessibility the information isn’t technically any more secure then it would be on a virtual cloud on a river somewhere but it feels more secure. I think this will be another hurdle for cloud computing to overcome is the concept that it will be less secure then the physical storage options.
o        The reliability of the provider is also a concern. What happens if we can’t access our information? What recourse is available to us as a consumer? Vetting the provider of these services will be critical in the coming age. I would expect that simplifying that process and providing some sort of rating system will become its own industry. The value added portion of cloud computing. Over the years we have occasionally had difficulties with various vendors. If a vendor held all of your information, your business would be in their hands. That is a risk I am extremely reticent to take.
What we can do to improve immediately:
·         Work on moving some simple things to the cloud. We could definitely work on moving some of our antiquated, non essential information, to the cloud. We need to work on vetting providers and whether it is even a necessary or cost effective option for us at this juncture. Do we need to move to the cloud immediately? I think the advantage to working on it would be that we wouldn’t be so terribly behind the technological curve
·         Investigation of cloud services and software. Especially some CRM software that would coordinate better with our current accounting system. We purchased our current CRM software based on the coordination with our accounting software but still the accessibility of information is difficult and in some cases disjointed. The software as a service may allow us to tap into programming and info structure that we would not have the resources to create as far as a system goes but we could access on a pay as needed basis. I think this is a large advantage of the movement to the cloud for small businesses (less than 10 million according to the federal government) is that we will have access to programs and capacities that we would never have been able to create or afford previously. In some ways cloud computing will be an equalizer with respect to that access.
Where things are headed:
·         I think physical systems will remain, but I could be wrong. We will likely keep our current server based system for quite sometime as we have a tendency to get the most out of a given technology. However, the proliferation of information will soon necessitate a move to the clouds for pure capacity reasons.
·         Software systems will become more integrated as the base using them continues to increase. There will inevitably be proverbial bugs to be worked out but given the exponential growth of technology, and diffusion of that technology, I think in ten years we will be primarily cloud based in both our storage and software. Also I think software innovations will happen so quickly once applications are cloud based that it will be somewhat necessary to be in the cloud. Outdated versions, file accessibility problems etc.
·         Accessing bandwidth will continue to be a problem in Alaska though. Our physical and geographical limitations will continue to be frustrating. I think the best way to resolve this situation would be to move to a satellite based system, however, that would necessitate some political changes that may or may not occur.

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