Saturday, June 30, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
A Forgotten Hurdle …..
I was in Los Angeles last night, and I had dinner with a good friend, and previous co-worker from my former company, Advertising.com. We got into an animated discussion on a wide array of topics, one was centered around the single concept of, “CREATING VALUE.”
Why does one company succeed and another fail? (2 companies that look, act, smell, and compete in the marketplace)
Is it luck?
Strategy and Execution?
A combination of the three?
As Andrew Weissman says, “value creation comes from a strong sense of mission, as well as copious amounts of caffeine.”
Well, I’ve added one (or two) major element/reasons why some companies SUCCEED, where others fail, or simply never realize their potential.
(I must admit that I had completely forgotten just how important this particular aspect of WHY certain companies succeed, where others fail, until my dinner last night – and my friend from across the table said three letters to me……..)
Not the term that is familiar to most, Chief Technology Officer -- but, rather......
CTO stands for – “Conversion Tracking and Optimization” – and before I lose you, let me tell you this will NOT be a post about technology – but rather a key undervalued ingredient, of why I believe some companies succeed, where others don’t.
CTO! Damn CTO. As soon as he said it, in between bites of his Cobb Salad, Calamari, and Popcorn Shrimp……..I started to sweat.
“What did you say?” I asked him, as I almost spit out my Pale Ale on the table.
He replied casually, "CTO."
Those letters struck me like my 3rd grade teacher disciplining me on multiplication tables – it immediately invokes emotions, coupled with a “strong momentary pit in the stomach.”
CTO was the single term in my existence that made me a better communicator.
Because, CTO was about one thing for me. OVERCOMING OBJECTIONS.
In 1999 we developed(Advertising.com) a model that delivered results to advertisers. Leads, Sales, Clicks, Downloads, Sign ups, Views, email addresses, surveys……..they were all sold to advertisers in a manner that meant the following.
“An advertiser only paid us when we delivered a result, thus, each of our marketing partners had ZERO risk in our fundamental business equation…..we delivered sales, leads – and they paid us on what we delivered.”
But, without accountability (specific counts of how many sales we drove on our advertisers websites) there was NO WAY to measure our performance and effectiveness. We were at the mercy of our clients to tell us how many sales we drove to them? With delays? With trust factors? It was NO way to build a scalable business platform……..
CTO meant we needed to put our technology (code) on a advertisers website.
(we also had to optimize the placements, of what MEDIA website drove the sale, so our technology could pinpoint sources of web inventory that would drive more results)
Here is what CTO taught me in a nutshell.
A clients conversation with me, in 1999…went something like this:
“Andy, I like your business model, but we cant put your CTO pixels on our website – there is ZERO chance, it will NEVER EVER HAPPEN. I’m not going to allow you, to put any coding or tags on our website – even if it makes you more effective. You will just have to trust our counts, and rely that we are going to partner with you -- but your CTO pixels on our site are a non – starter.”
I replied……”I understand…..but”
Client gets louder, and interrupts me – “I’m going to go with Flycast, or Phase 2 Media, or another network that does not want to put their CTO tags on our site. Bye Andy”
I’m cringing as I type this……remembering these conversations.
But then….I got good at responding.
I got really good – at explaining precisely why “Conversion Tracking and Optimization” benefits the advertisers more than they could imagine. I got really good at OVERCOMING OBJECTIONS – in a changing fluid, and evolving market……
We got good at educating our employees, and sharing knowledge on best practices – thus, helping to “institutionalize” the focus of, overcoming real client objections, to CTO.
Our culture at Advertising.com enabled people across all departments to share information, and engage challenges DAILY…..through a morning all hands on deck, war room meeting.
Our culture created an atmosphere where sales people did not compete for commissions, recognition, or territory – but rather for something more important…..the ever crucial fundamental motivator, of knowing that you, personally --- were helping to CREATE VALUE, where none previously existed.
Empowering each employee with a fundamental guideline of the business. DAILY.
And, that my friends is a simple yet often overlooked element of what helps differentiate successful companies from their competitors.
Let me summarize:
1) Sharing common client objections, WITH EVERY EMPLOYEE. Making the "client concerns" -- EMPLOYEE KNOWLEDGE BASES. Learning that if your clients have questions, objection and concerns about your business, SO DO YOUR EMPLOYEES.
2) Understanding precisely, WHY clients have objections to your business concept - may consist of:
a) your message and technology suck. (which I know our's at the time did not)
b) your business model/technology is AHEAD of the market, which requires you to sell at a COMPLETELY different level)
Advertising.com was (is) AHEAD of the marketplace in ideas, technology, and most of all - execution and strategy.
A great piece on the company, AND CREATING VALUE - written by our Financial Guru, Mike Woosley is HERE.
We also (as a company) excelled at a little known commodity, called "overcoming objections" -- and specifically CTO -- was the concern that required the most attention.
CTO was a forgotten hurdle in my past life.
A "forgotten hurdle" (objections to a concept/technology/idea) that is overcome, and conquered successfully, certainly helps shape us individually -- and makes us better people.
But, can that translate to making ENTIRE COMPANIES more effective and productive?
I think so, because we are living it again.
Social Media, and USER GENERATED content, present so many unique opportunities to CREATE VALUE, and move the market forward -- that some of the same "objections and concerns" are present once again......
The concerns are different, and more advanced, but they are still present, in this evolving landscape of internet media, and monetization.
And, that single hurdle of INSTITUTIONALIZING objections and concerns -- ACROSS THE ENTIRE COMPANY, helped us to yield, and deliver tremendous results.
I believe that it was a core element, (and little noticed) to what made us successful, where our competititors with similiar models, FAILED.
Value Creation comes in many forms......
CTO, and all of it's baggage that it presented to me at the time, made me a better communicator, and most of all - instilled my belief that CLIENT CONCERNS on your business practice need to be -- company opportunities to BOND.
That is what we are doing.....and I'm proud to say --- it is working.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Friday, June 22, 2007
I must admit. I've never watched American Idol, or any other type show label, "Idol or Talent."
I was sent this clip by my father -- and I opened it not knowing what to expect.
The guy is a wireless phone salesman. He participated in a show called, "Britain's Got Talent."
His name is Paul Potts. He is from South Wales.
This gave me CHILLS.
In my previous post, I explained how we have summer interns working at Lotame.
Recently, I asked them to do a summary on their learning experiences thus far. (4 weeks into their summer project with us.)
This post comes to us from Marshall Massey. Marshall is going into his senior year at Lafayette College, in Easton PA. I've been thoroughly impressed with Marshall's calm, cool, demeanor -- and I really enjoy his perspective on issues, as well as his sense of humor.
Below I bring you, thoughts from Marshall Massey, uncensored, unfiltered, raw -- and fantastic.......
At first I didn’t realize why Lotame was my choice for a summer internship. I had originally seen it as merely a way to make some money for the summer. However, I now know why.
As a 21 year old senior to be Lafayette College student, I find myself at the type of school I always imagined myself attending. A small liberal arts solely undergrad college with about 2300 total students; located in the city-town of Easton Pennsylvania. Knowing that comfort and familiarity would be important elements of existence for the four years of college, I envisioned a small campus comprised of buildings built with heterogeneous, yet alike architecture, along with trees (I’m not the city type). Lafayette is exactly that. Although many Lafayette students are comparable, I can confidently say that I have managed my Lafayette experience to be 100% unique.
In March of this year, as a 21 year old experience seeking intern to be, I found myself searching for that ideal summer. In my mind it consisted of a small working environment, that facilitated both comfort and familiarity, intelligent people whose interests were heterogeneous, yet they all contributed differently. It also had to be somewhere with trees (I’m not the city type). Lotame is exactly that. Although many intern seeking 21 year olds find themselves in the described setting, the Lotame experience is 100% unique.
Bass Drum Player for the pep band, Fraternity President, Government and Law minor, Economics and Business Major. Out of 2300 plus there is only one.
Maryland office, Summer internship, Business/Marketing structure, Lotame. Out of Millions there is only one (actually there are two of us).
In fourth grade I quit the percussion section; the drums were too heavy to carry home every day. At Lafayette there are 6 football games and 4 basketball games a year where the bass drum must be carried from the Williams Arts Center to Fisher football field or the Kirby Sports’ Center gym. I accept the transporting now (plus the drum to person ratio has drastically changed).
Growing up in New Jersey and going to college only an hour away can lead to a sheltered comfort. Elkridge Maryland is an additional three hours away from that comfort. I have accepted the extended drive now (plus the experience is worth it).
They all call me Marmo, Mr. President sounds too professional and too serious.
But, being president of the Rho chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon is serious. My term ends in November with the initiation of a new class and our chapter anniversary (152nd) left as the major milestones remaining for my presidency. Every DKE president has had to lead their chapters through events such as these. I only hope my legacy is strong when looked back upon.
Some call me MnM (initials), some call me Mr. President: working for Lotame is a lot of fun. I have a co-intern roommate named Dan; I have funny easy going co-workers. But, work also needs to be productive. My internship ends in August with many assignments still to do on the task list. I only hope that I can contribute constructively (and maybe continue to work for Lotame in the future).
Psychology has interested me, but not the labs. Anthropology was inspiring, but one class was enough. Government and Law has been intriguing, but only portions of it, hence the minor. Economics and Business seemed like it was the only option left. Luckily, something clicked within the walls of the William E. Simon (DKE c/o 1952) Center. I liked Econ.
Taking the LSATs and law school was the goal, but that faded. Accounting was next on the list, but that hit a dead end. Luckily, something clicked in Professor Ruebeck’s Marketing Science class. The Lotame experience thus far, has been so beneficial in maturing that interest.
I enjoy the classes I have taken. There are no guidelines for the Lafayette Economics and Business major, only that one must take five required classes and five electives. My focus is on marketing with classes that include Marketing Science, Marketing Research and Industrial Organization.
I have enjoyed working on projects at Lotame. There are very light guidelines for the Lotame intern experience. Working on everything from company presentations to the basics of product support and learning from Account Managers and Business Analysts, Lotame has given me the ability to learn so much. That specialized education will help me at Lafayette and with the rest of my life.
Why am I interning at Lotame? That’s why.
-Marshall Massey: Marmo, MnM, Mr. President.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I asked one of our interns, Dan Reich, to write a piece that I could post here, about his experience thus far in being a part of Lotame. Dan is a talented intern, who has come to us from the University of Wisconsin.
I am especially interested in INTERNS, and their perception of working at Lotame. I cut and paste this post, unfiltered, uncensored --- and from the heart.
Thanks Dan....(his post on his summer thus far with Lotame is below -- 4 weeks into his internship.)
To start this post, I will reiterate something Andy said in one of his earlier posts. Right now, I am exhausted, yet I have never been more excited to be where I am right now. When people ask me, “How’s your summer internship going? What are you doing there? What are you learning”, I take a deep breath, and simply say, “Everything”. And it couldn’t be better.
To date, I have worked on virtually every aspect of this business. I have worked on company presentations and presented them to the management team and investors. I have participated in creating a revenue model that will ultimately define the way this business makes money. I have even gone as far as to invent new words, metrics, and ways of measuring data that will one day be adopted by an entire industry. Besides playing ping pong in the office every once in a while; there are no limits and restraints on creativity or productivity. In this office, I am surrounded by a team comprised of some of the most driven and talented individuals I have ever met.
And what am I learning? Every single day I am learning how internet monetization works (and will work) and I am learning from the best in the industry. From the deadhead and a sales leader behind Advertising.com (Andy), to the cool and collected original sales force member at yahoo (Scott), I am being exposed to the minds of some guys who have, for a lack of a better word, “made it”. As an aspiring entrepreneur, this is truly invaluable.
And what about the tech guys? As an undergrad electrical engineer at the University of Wisconsin, I am also exposed to some brilliant minds that are developing our technology. How often does an engineer in any field, have the opportunity to walk over to the CTO’s desk (Jeremy) and watch him write the algorithms and platforms that will be used by an entire industry? Being able to have even 2 cents worth of input to this is also truly remarkable.
This really is an adventure and an experience. Everything I do throughout the day will in one way or another effect the company’s growth and development. Every day, I am presented with new and difficult challenges and unsolved problems, and its awesome. You could be sure that I’ll be back here after I’m finished with Wisconsin.
Being that this is Andy’s blog, I will end in saying…
“Turning nothing into something is G-d work, and you get nothing without struggle and hard work.” – Nas
D$ - Dan Reich
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
And, I could not be more happy.
You see, Jessica is my 1st cousin. She is quite a unique person.
Her blog is about her brother, Brian.(click here to read)
I encourage you to read it. It's VERY VERY insightful.
Jessica is unique in every way. Well traveled, intelligent, and a downright good person.
Jessica, welcome to the world of writing for everyone, and NO ONE. (except yourself)
Give her blog a read. It is excellent.
Just like her.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Many thanks to the incredible folks at Wallstrip for doing a piece on Lotame.
See video below.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia penned a few lines in one of their songs called, "The Wheel."
"The wheel is turning and you can't slow down,
you can't let go and you can't hold on,
you can't go back and you can't stand still,
if the thunder don't get ya then the lightning will."
My friend, Roger Ehrenberg has written a piece, that reminds me of the above quote.
Roger eloquently lays bare, the fundamental problem facing "Mainstream Media." (Or, as he calls it in his piece, MSM)
I fundamentally agree with 99% of what Roger has written, but the primary area of focus for me is -- ADVERTISERS.
Advertisers and Brands often DRIVE change. Consumers do as well, but the implict trust a major brand must undertake when approving or executing against a media plan, is of primary concern to me.
How to make a Brand Manager comfortable outside of the MAINSTREAM, safe, secure environment that MSM offers?
Major marketing budgets (dollars) are flowin' away from MSM, and towards a more "shared, communal" arena. Roger explains how value creation plays a part in this:
"The creation of original content, that
Is mixed and presented with other relevant content, which
Excites, interests and stimulates users, and
Provides them the ability to share, comment and collaborate about the aggregated content, be it the content itself or comments about the content, which
Can be tagged and labeled for future use."
Is it happening quickly?
Spending on search engine marketing (as a percentage of total online dollars) is beginning to level off. Display advertising (banners, video, rich media) are showing growth of, 17% quarter over quarter - this signals a fundamental shift in the way Advertisers want to REACH their target consumers.
They (large brands) are infact, starting to see the payoff in communicating inside of Media 2.0.
We believe that effective, and relevant data collection, on both users interaction in a community, coupled with a strong and compelling reason as to, WHY A MAJOR BRAND WOULD WIN BY PLAYING OUTSIDE OF MSM is key.
That is the void that Lotame fills.
"Who can deny? Who can deny?
it's not just a change in style
One step done and another begun
in I wonder how many miles?
Spent a little time on the mountain
Spent a little time on the hill
Things went down we don't understand
but I think in time we will"
* New Speedway Boogie, Garcia/Hunter.
Roger, good on ya brother -- for a GREAT POST, coupled with insightful recommendations.