Domains, Traffic & the Corporatization of Search Results.

Domains, Traffic & the Corporatization of Search Results.

Before the “beginning,” there were corporations. Ads on TV, full page ads in the Yellow Pages, newspapers and magazines. Everyone knew the big guys – ATT, State Farm, Bank of America…
Then the internet came into being. So in this “new beginning” (umm, about 1997-1999), there was net… It was fair to one and all. Little guys went toe-to-toe with the big guys and won.

It was a time when someone like YourFavoriteCarInsuranceCompany.com could create a site and then rank first for car insurance. All was good for the little guys who toiled in obscurity. The playing field was level allowing the little guy to compete against the big guys. Little guys everywhere rejoiced.

Then Google figured out what people were searching for and what the users wanted in their results – i.e., the bigger players. So now GEICO, Progressive and maybe a single keyword rich url CarInsurance.com, assuming it is active with great content, rank at the top of the heap. Now, the little guys have faded back into obscurity again.

While not apparent at the time, this corporatization of search results would soon become the model for all keyword searches.

The Google Mayday update seems to have caused a few major changes, especially impacting PPC landing pages for domain owners:

1) Most PPC landing companies (and the domainers who use them) have seen their revenue go down, some report by as much as 50%+. It was pretty easy for Google to look at the DNS and determine if it was a parking page.

2) Matt Cutts indicating that the searches for long tail traffic keywords, will now favor sites that have greater value (high content, high inbound links, high recognition, visitor utility, quality off site links). You don’t need a secret-agent decoder ring to understand that this generally means results from bigger companies. They have bigger sites, tend to get links, etc.

So, the Mayday update means the corporatization of search results will now pervade into almost every search.

Furthermore, this will impact domain holders in two ways:

1) They will be willing to pay less for dropped domains at auctions, since it will be much harder to recover the investment via PPC revenues.

2) The overall portfolio valuation have decreased due to less revenue being generated.

So, the internet is going into its first cycle, much like short, short skirts, then long skirts, then short, short skirts. As you know, everything old, becomes new.

So here is what is new. We are going back to, before the beginning – big companies will again outrank little companies.

This corporatization of search results will continue with the other major search engines and continue to decrease the revenue and valuation of domain holders (Of course, quality domains will hold their values).

There are some strategies to fight this, but that is for another post…

Google Earns 99% of Their Revenues Online – Here is How You Can Too.

For Advertisers: Google AdWords

* Advertise to people searching on Google and our advertising network
* Reach people actively looking for information about your products and services online
* Easily control costs – pay only when people click on your ad

For Site Owners: Google AdSense

* Maximize your site’s revenue potential with contextually targeted ads
* Customize ads to complement the look and feel of your site
* Track the success of different formats and locations with online reports

Peak Oil Theory Bell Curve and the Future of .Com Domain Prices

The Hubbert Peak Theory

(Of course this article was written before the onslaught of new domain extensions)

In 1956, Marion King Hubbert stated that for any individual oil field, or for any country, or for the world as a whole, the rate of petroleum production tends to follow a bell-shaped curve. This became known as the Hubbert Peak Theory.

There Are Some Similarities Between .Com Domains And The Oil Industry.

Obviously the peak is at the top of production. Essentially the Hubbert peak theory shows that once oil findings peak, so does the amount of oil that can be produced (duh). And, that once we are on the downside of the bell curve, which we are, we should be examining other alternatives, because there will be no more oil.

Now, What Does This Have To Do With .Com Domain Names?

Well, there is a finite amount of oil, and for the most part, there is a finite amount of .com domains (unless you count 1plna889qqqzz.com as an option).

Peak Oil Theory Bell Curve

Hubbert theorized that after all fossil fuel options (oil reserves, coal reserves, and natural gas reserves) are identified (there hasn’t been a major find in 30 years), production increases almost exponentially at first. Then as more value is recognized (i.e. demand) man creates more efficient ways to “drink the oil” and extract at a greater pace. At some point, the peak output of a field (or a country or the world) is reached (the top of the bell curve), and then production begins declining until it also has an exponential decline.

As the decline begins, even more efforts are attempted to get at the remaining oil reserves, i.e., Canadian sand tar and injection of various liquid or gases into previously dug holes to force any residual to more easily be captured and extracted. At some point efforts turn towards such proposals as drilling in Alaska, off the shores of California or areas like Sudan.

Lastly, alternatives to oil are being more closely examined, such as solar, wind, nuclear, etc.

Peak Domain Theory Bell Curve

Back to domains… The same thing happened here. At first there was the discovery of domains, followed by a slow build up of the “extraction” of domains. Not long after that there was more sophisticated mining of domains including scripts to take keywords, add a .com after the keyword and then check for availability. Before too long, in a very short period of time, we hit the peak in that every dictionary and “money” keyword (and keyword phrases) were totally depleted.

The peak of domains was hit, and now on the downside of the bell curve more innovative activities are incurring such as examining dropped domain lists and then subsequently using high tech programs to bang the domain databases on the day of the drop, or even going to individual domain owners, one by one, and asking if they would sell their domain. This last method is akin to the injection of air or liquid into a dry well, in order to see if anything is left.

Lastly, as the .com reserves of domains were being depleted, alternatives were being created, and we know them as .mobi, .info, .biz, etc. Most of these domain extensions were only slightly more effective than cold fusion research.

There Are More Similarities Between Oil And .Com Domains

Oil consumption peaks in the US was approximately in 1970 (remember the gas lines) and world oil depletion should be occurring right about now, although oil-producing companies continue to “enhance” their oil reserve projections, not surprisingly, upwards, which masks the true amount of oil available.

Also, in the 70’s, about half of all global consumption was used by the US. Domain consumption is predominantly a US activity, as indicated by ownership.

As the world realizes an oil shortage, especially with the continuing massive consumption of oil by the US, and the staggering increase of oil by China and India, the price of oil should not only increase, but increase rapidly. Plus there over 700 million motorized vehicles worldwide. We have already experienced the first of a price increase in gas and related oil products over the last year or so.

So What Does The Future Hold For .Com Domains?

I heard on the show, “A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash,” about oil, that the stone age ended not because of the lack of stones, the age of using animals, such as horses, ended not because of the lack of hay, and they theorized that “necessity is the mother of invention,” and that advancements were made in the past, and we should be able to “figure out” some sort of solution to the dependence on oil. Maybe…

The .com domain age won’t really end, for the most part, because unlike oil, .com domains live on and are recycled, resold and redistributed from sellers to buyers.

The “Crude Awakening” documentary also emphasized how “cheap” oil still is. They used a simple example comparing oil to Starbucks. Gas is about $3 a gallon and Starbucks in $50 a gallon. Their conclusion? We have it cheap and prices will go up substantially.

In Conclusion…

Will oil products ultimately go the way of the 8-track, 5 GB hard drives and pay phones? Definitely.

Will domains fall to this extinction as well? Probably not, in that domains are limited in their numbers and they are not consumed. In short, unless some QUALITY alternative to .com domains is somehow created (which could happen, but hasn’t so far), .com domains should continue to increase in value as scarce and valuable resource.

Conclusion, while the consumption of all quality .com domain names has peaked, the value of the domains continues to rise. Hold onto your domain portfolio as long as you can.

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Social currency: How Proctor & Gamble Are Manipulating Your Friends to Manipulate You

Wod Of Mouth

Some people have learnced how to exchange social standing for monetary gain. Now, there is nothing wrong with that as when you see an engaging salesperson, with a vibrant personality, leading the company in closed transactions. Hey, that is what they are suppose to do. The people being “sold” know how this works and they elect to buy the service or product from the salesperson of their choice.

Social currency is established over time with trust and compassion. You develop a following of friends who believe what you say.

John H. Clippinger writes that social currency and reputation go hand in hand. He cites eBay, “In eBay, for example, a seller acquires a reputation score given to them by their buyers. Different reputation score levels not only make it more likely that others will do business with them, but it confers a certain status among other members of the eBay community.”

The Dark Side of Our Friendship

Proctor & Gamble claims to have mastered the technique for getting you to talk about their products. Umm, it’s called money. Smart guys, those P&G fellows.

Magnoticism writes, “Capturing Connectors Fueling the Tremor engine are the 250,000 teens that P&G calls “connectors.” One major insight from P&G’s initial research, Knox says, is that Tremor’s connectors “exist throughout the product adoption curve.” That sets them apart from trendsetters or early adopters, those consumer warhorses of Tipping Point fame. Although trendsetters and early adopters are quick to glom on to new ideas and products, they are not necessarily avenues for successful word of mouth; in fact, some trendsetters might be cul-de-sacs of buzz, hoarding secrets that distinguish them from peers. A connector, by contrast, is anyone—even the last person to find out about something—who always taps the nearest shoulder to point out a new purchase or a cool song or TV show or movie. They are people with “really broad and deep social networks and a deep propensity to want to talk about ideas,” Knox says. “The first question connectors ask is, ‘Is this idea worth my advocacy?’ It’s their social currency on the line, so it has to be a product that they at least believe in.” – Steve Knox, CEO, Tremor “

Sis, Boom, Buy…


In the April 19th, 2007 edition of the Wall Street Journal, talks about P&G providing products at cheerleader camps and cheerleading events. “Putting in an appearance on the cheerleading circuit is becoming mandatory for marketers hoping to connect with teens through word-of-mouth marketing. These marketers, including P&G and PepsiCo Inc., recognize cheerleaders can be among the most popular people in high school, able to influence opinions on deodorant, shampoos or other products. Many cheeerleaders have told her friends about products she’s seen at cheerleader camp.

“Marketing to cheerleaders is “a unique way to get involved with an influential set of our consumers,” says Dave Knox, teen external relations manager for P&G Beauty. P&G estimates there are about 14 million cheerleaders in the U.S. between the ages of 13 and 20.”

Word of Click

Obviously, here I would like you to tell your friends if you found this article informative.

Internet Marketing is Like Marketing Sex

There is often a bit of confusion about the blurry line of distinction between sales and marketing, but everyone seems to understand a bit more about sex.

Little Sizzle, a Dash Of Appeal, a Bit Of Allure

Internet marketing is a lot like marketing sex. You need a little sizzle, a dash of appeal, a bit of allure and something that meets and satisfies the user’s desire.

There is a great illustration of the distinctions between marketing, branding, public relations, sales etc., it goes like this.

You see an attractive person at a party. You march across the room, go up to the person and say, in a matter of fact tone, “I’m fantastic in bed. How ’bout it?”” — That’s “Direct Marketing.”

You’re at a party with a bunch of friends and see an attractive person.
You give your friend ten dollars to approach the attractive person and they say, “Hi, my friend over there (pointing to you) is great in bed, how ’bout it?”. — That’s “Advertising.”

You see an attractive person at a party. You go up to them and get their telephone number. The next day you call and say, “Hi, I’m fantastic in bed.” — That’s “Telemarketing.”

You’re at a party and see an attractive person. You give two of your friends ten bucks each to stand within earshot of the attractive person and point over to you and say, “I hear that person is fantastic in bed.” Then they talk about what a great person you are. — That’s “Public Relations.”

You’re at a party and see an attractive person. That person immediately walks over to you and says, “Hi, I hear you’re great in bed, how ’bout it?”. — That’s “Brand Recognition.”

You’re at a party and see an attractive person. You talk them into
going home with your friend. — That’s a “Sales Rep.”

Your friend can’t satisfy them so the attractive person calls you. — That’s “Tech Support.”

You’re at a party when you realize that there are many attractive people in attendance. So you start at one corner of the room and go to each person you find attractive and shout at the top of your lungs, “I’m fantastic in bed!” Soon you are asked to leave the party.
That’s “Spam” marketing.

Your Online Marketing Efforts

Now, how does all relate to your online marketing efforts? Are your visitors looking for something sexy, or are they seeking something more substantial?

Direct Marketing: Contact related companies and ask for a link from their web site to yours.

Advertising: Use pay-per-click efforts, buy keywords at various search portals, advertise in newsletters and opt-in ezines.

Telemarketing: Call companies in other cities and states and offer to exchange leads for customers you cannot service.

Public Relations: Do postings in various newsgroups and moderated newsgroups providing helpful information. Also add a features that might be helpful, like a home loan company offering a mortgage calculator on their web site that anyone can use without logging in our having to complete a sign-in process.

Brand Recognition: This is something that is earned.

Spam: Unsolicited emails can produce short term results, but the negative connotations and possible loss of your ISP or web site host can destroy your business.

Other Ways Sex Sells

A few other ways “sex sells” (or “sex doesn’t sell”) for your mortgage web site:

A Pretty Face: Make sure your web site is attractive and pleasant in appearance. No one likes to see a mortgage site constructed with a FrontPage 97 template and with 13 different color fonts.

A Tight Fitting Outfit: If you are selling mortgages, don’t offer anything else. Links to Amazon, your favorite sites, the IRS, are detrimental to you. Customers are hard to get…keep them on your web site.

Scantily Clothed: Don’t skimp on information on your web site. If a visitor has to search, or heaven-forbid, call for ANY reason other to complete an application, then you haven’t done your job. ALL information on rates, procedures, about your company, should be on your site.

Movies Are For The Theaters: Do NOT make your customers watch a Flash introduction of spinning houses, swirling interest rate symbols, flying dollar bills and end up at some monolithic edifice that is your office building. Visitors want info, not entertainment.

Talking Dirty: Never bad-mouth the competition from your web site.

The Promise of More Than You Intend to Deliver: Don’t blink and blast a coupon or special on your site if it only applies to people who buy $1,000 worth of merchandise, today. Show ALL your specials, not just the eye-stoppers.

Tricks are for Dogs: Any traffic generating trick, such as creating a Pamela Lee Anderson worship page on your site, that works will stop working next week when everyone wise to what you are doing and no one will fall for it.

Romance: People like to treated nice, they like to be cared for — so, do this for your visitors at your site. Make it easy to navigate your site, answer their questions before they have to ask them and be responsive when they email you.

Stepping Stones To Acquiring And Maintaining Customers

What web site owners are really seeking, is the same outcome that often occurs via sex… a marriage. Web site owners want a relationship that is good for both parties to occur. The sex and romance, while an integral part in the courtship maze, are simply the stepping stones to acquiring and maintaining customers.

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A Hole In The Fire

Mann Gulch Fire – August 5, 1949

It was August 1949, a bone dry day in Montana with near 100 degree heat. The lightning-caused blaze burned more than 3,000 acres and controlling it required the efforts of more than 400 firefighters.

Fifteen brave firefighters parachuted into remote Mann Gulch to fight an out of control forest fire. Shortly after the smokejumpers were on the ground the fire jumped across a ravine, flared up and trapped them between the flames and a steep slope.

The fifteen firefighters panicked and ran, trying to make it up a 76% grade in hopes of reaching a crest for safety. It was hopeless, but they all dropped their heavy gear and ran, except their commander. He knew the climb was too great and the fire too swift. He knew that it wasn’t going to work. So he stopped, took out matches, and lit a fire in font of him in the tall dry grass that was between him and the slope.

His fire rapidly spread up the slope creating an area that was hot, but couldn’t burn anymore as all the fuel had burned. He followed his burned trail and yelled for his crew to come to him for safety. The others were so panic stricken that they just continued running and climbing up the slope.

The commander went into the middle of the burned-out area and layed down. The turbulent Mann Gulch fire raged everywhere around him, except for where he was.

A Hole In The Fire

Just 90 minutes after the 15 smokejumpers had parachuted, 10 were dead, unable to race the fire as they were consumed by a wall of 200 foot flames. Two others died the next day due to burns they received. The commander of the unit lived as he had created a safety spot, “a hole in the fire.”

AP/Forest Service Photo

This concept became known as an “escape fire,” and it became part of forest fire training. This tragedy later spawned the 1952 Hollywood movie, “Red Skies of Montana.”

What was interesting about this was that the commander had found a way to benefit everyone, he had yelled and offered sanctuary to his crew. Ultimately the Forest Service taught this technique to all forest fire fighters. This was something that would benefit the many.

This now brings us to the internet and how this can apply to your site. I will discuss two applications from the “hole in the fire” story: one, the value of a story, and two, how the “hole in the fire” works in reverse on the net.

The Value Of Stories

Does your company have a good story to tell? Can you share something with your potential customers that converts you from a cold heartless stop on a journey of a thousand clicks into a reason to pause on your site and cause the viewer to pause and say, “I think I will stay on this site and explore a little bit more?”

Across The Frozen Tundra…

I was watching an interview with the owners of NFL films. This is the company that films the NFL with lots of slow-motion action footage, crisp editing, a musical background best described as a Star Wars / 70’s action movie / Classical marching mind-meld.

They were also famous for using rich commentary behind the powerful narration by John Facenda: “The autumn wind is a pirate, blustering in relentlessly from the sea. These cold winds whisper of high hopes as helmet against helmet breaks the silence of the crisp day.”

They could make even a 17-0 sleeper look like the most dramatic game in the history of organized sports. For example, in a Dallas Cowboys highlight film in 1967, it first described Green Bay’s football field famously as “a frozen tundra” (across the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field), as they were showing the muddied and bloodied hands of lineman in their stance and cold frost forming as they breathed in and out.

Remember, Remember, Remember My Name…

When they interviewed Steve Sabol, one of the principals of NFL films, he was asked why have they been so successful given that Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC and ESPN all do essentially the same thing. He replied that they were different and then stated, “Tell me a fact and I’ll remember. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and I’ll will remember forever.”

Fire In The Hole

If you have ever found your site ranked first for a “money” keyword or phrase (mortgage, San Diego home loans, refi), you find that you are absolutely besieged with visitors, questions, orders and sales, almost to the point where you are unable to handle the volume. It literally is a “fire in the hole.” Often you are not quite sure what you have done to achieve the top ranking, and even if you knew, you would not tell anyone.

Unlike the “hole in the fire story” where what you have learned benefits everyone, when you have a “fire in the hole,” situation, you just have no reason to share that information each person you benefit possibly has a negative impact on your site and rankings.

Confusion Can Lead to Positive Outcomes; or More Confusion

The confusion and lack of communication at the Mann Gulch fire prompted major changes in smokejumper training. It has resulted in greater safety and lives saved. What was learned during this tragedy has created a method that still works today – the back burn fire.
On the internet, there is a lot of confusion about what works, and what doesn’t. Even when you find something that does work, it most likely has a short life span due to frequently changing search engine algorithms.

An early example of a technique that once helped sites achieve top rankings was called keyword stuffing. If you had a site about, say, “Seattle home loans,” you might have repeated the phrase “Seattle home loans” a hundred times on your site. This way the search engine would have surmised that, surprise, your site was more about “Seattle home loans” than any other site, so it would have ranked you first.

If you use keyword stuffing techniques today, you get banned from the search engines. And that would be a fatal fire you can’t extinquish.

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The Best Super Bowl Commercial Ad Ever

I know it is a more than month past the Super Bowl but my wife always says I am a slow learner, so I guess I will write this just to prove her right (as always).

Brother, Can You Spare a Second?

CNN reports that each Super Bowl ad costs $2.5M for a 30 second spot – or $83,33 a second; yep, that is just one time, one play. Then the next day the water cooler talk and media organizations all rate the various ads and argue if pets, booze, comedy or girls are the most important element in a successful and memorable ad.

My daughter still likes the “herding cats” commercial, but I can’t remember which company it was promoting…

Answer: Swen Nater

Basketball great Bill Walton was asked who was the best college center he played against during his years at UCLA. Walton replied, “Swen Nater.” The reporter was surprised because Nater wasn’t an opposing center from a major school, he was the back-up center to Walton.

I applied the same thinking to deciding my best Super Bowl commercial, and it is “The Super Bowl Shuffle” by the Chicago Bears. It had more air play than any commercial and it promoted the Super Bowl itself. It even reached #41 on the Billboard charts.


I never was a real big Bears fan, but I loved watching Sweetness – Walter Payton.

Content Intensity and Creativity as a "Stickiness" Factor



How Do You Break Net Zombism For Your Visitors?

Here is the problem… internet users have web page fatigue. Some random thought sparks the engrained sequence – the user waits for the dim glow of their screen as they turn the power on, then their fingers robotically go to a search engine as another thought enters their mind (what was it I was suppose to do before I went online?) and then a search query is entered and their zombie face glances up hoping for a perfect result.

The mouse is clicked and a web site is opening (Hmm, I hope the first result is what I am searching for). The page appears. The mind looks in the engrained pattern, top, top left, picture, navigation bar (Shoot, this really isn’t what I am looking for. I have to click again.)

You know this routine. It is caused because the web has entered the commodity phase; that is going to the first page of a search result is as good as the fifth URL.

Transforming Your Web Site From a Commodity to an Experience

Blah, blah, ho, ho, hum, hum – that is what you are finding on most sites in terms of web content. The sites that do best are the sites that are creative, have in-depth content, offer greater than desired information and do it in a way as to not bore the visitor to death. In other words, they transform a web page into an experience.

A Nickel Looking For A Dime

Now I know this is no surprise, but if you write blah ho hum, you get blah ho hum… Or as one of my college friends was told by a slightly inebriated girl he was trying to ask out at a campus party, “You are a nickel looking for a dime.” He was crushed, then foolish enough to tell me, swearing me to a rum and coke induced secrecy… which has since expired. (When adjusted for inflation, and the power of the internet, it now is, “A nickel looking for a dollar.”)

Intensity, belief, conviction and truth are compelling factors in your web copy that cause visitors to not only just visit, but wander through your site, re-visit later and tell their friends.

The haka is a Maori posture / war dance with a call and response type of vocal chanting. The haka includes intense facial gesticulations which would probably scare the bejesus out of Freddie from Nightmare on Elm Street. Besides showing the fire from the whites of the eyes, sticking out their tongues in a devilish manner and body slapping the hands against their legs and chest, the haka “psyches up” the performers, and “intimidates” the opponent.

Put on Your Helmet, Lock Your Wrists to Your Chair, and Click…

Here is a video example of intensity. It is the haka performed by the New Zealand All Black Rugby team. Adidas thought so much of the haka, they made it into commercial.

Watch the intentness on their faces and listen to the tone and delivery of their Maori war dance. It is a long way from “sis, boom, bah” or “go, fight, win” cheers found at local sporting events.

Here is another example, a bit over the top, of writing to evoke emotion. I had several surfboards for sale and I received more emails commenting on the content than inquiries from buyers.

###
THE EL NIñO GUN!

Feel the rhythm of the ocean beneath you as you cast your eyes to shore.

Release the weight of pressures from the land bound world, knowing your senses will be cleansed with what the Peruvian fisherman call the ‘Christ child,’ the El Niño fury.

Now look to the West and witness the oncoming rage that was created by
the chaos of winter storms, many miles away, storms you will never see, except for the waves.

The ire of the ocean not only creates the waves, it also rekindles the flame in your belly, and the calmness in being, as you effortlessly stroke and glide into the rising, magnificent peak.

With purpose in your heart, confidence in your command and knowingness in your ability, effortlessly guide your board down the face,
and prepare to harness the raw energy which was anger, just days ago.

Any emptiness within your being is filled and fueled by the passion of the waves and this, in turn, now ignites the fire in your soul.

You respect her power as the wave lifts, then unfolds, revealing a solitary path of safety, of excitement, of glory; you are confident in your steed.

As you stand, acknowledge the alchemy occurring between your soul, ocean and earth: gravity is transformed into grace and fluid motion begets internal emotion.

Revel in your drop from the crest, to only find yourself, seconds later, rising along the face;
merging with the flow of nature.

As you allow your fingertips to softly caress the nape of the wave, you wonder,
“Is it really the ocean caressing you?”

Fully immerse yourself in this very moment, as time is suspended, awareness become acute and movement is extended.

Many states rush your senses: grandeur, peace, joy, expression, freedom and stoke.

You wonder, as you have wondered many times before,
“Is it the soles of your feet that allow this experience,
or is it the feat of your soul?”

Allow this 9’10” sculpture of power, glory, glide and soul to answer the question:
Are you ready for El Niño?

What price to achieve Glory, you ask…
You can experience the parting of the seas with your investment of just
$475 (about a penny a wave), a small expenditure which will allow you to:
Bring on El Niño…and prepare to
tame the child.
###

Good Content Equals Higher Pricing

I also noticed something interesting with selling these surfboards with the content versus just having a “for sale” sign… the content readers didn’t try and negotiate on price with me at all.

One more example of the haka, just because I like it…


Gawd, if that was as intense for you as it was for me then please tell a friend
thanks 🙂

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The Future of Small Online Companies… Globalization and Cowboys

I have a high school daughter and I am always tearing out articles I read in Business 2.0, Wired, the Wall Street Journal, Inc Magazine and the like hoping she will read what I read and have an “aha” moment. Usually it is just a “aarrgghh” moment, as I see the torn wisdom sitting in the trash adjacent to toilet. But there was one article I made her read (umm, I mean “required”), and that was “Why the World Is Flat” by globalization guru Thomas Friedman. I normally don’t like to receive advice on parenting, and you may not like it either, but have your kid read this article. It may help them pick a college career that won’t be outsourced.

When we were growing up, our mothers and fathers taught us many lessons that were true – one of which is that the earth is round. It was easy to believe and understand. We could see pictures from outer space and every class room had a globe. We in turn, taught our children that…

The World Is Round… Or Is It?

At first, humans believed the world was flat, because everything they saw was flat. If the world was round, one would most certainly fall off. Then, after Columbus and Magellan, man learned the world is round, and this information was handed down through the generations. While we believe the world is round, should we really be teaching our children this?

And Now, We Find The World Is Flat Again.

Thomas Friedman, a globalization expert, writes in his new book “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century” that world is no longer round. Here is why.

We Be Smart, Ain’t We?

It used to be that America was smart and other countries (especially third world countries) quite frankly we not so smart. A high school drop-out on welfare would earn more money than almost anyone else in the world. Overseas labor was cheap, but it was too far away.

Now countries like China and India produce more engineers per year than America. Our “advantage” over these countries is rapidly decreasing.

Cheap Labor Is Now One Day Away

There are two ends to the income spectrum. First, there are over 2.5 billion people living in China, India and Indonesia. This is about 41% of the world’s population. The vast majority of these people have an average per capita income in the $1,000 – $4,000 range. At the other end are the countries like the U.S., Japan, Germany, France, Canada and the UK. This group totals over 500 million people and, depending on the country, has an average income in excess of $11,500.

Geography is becoming less of an issue as we can either put a document in an overnight delivery pouch and have it seamlessly delivered anywhere in the world for less than $30, or we can wire funds to an overseas bank in minutes. Ships carrying container trucks flow from Asia as easily as we drive from the suburbs to downtown. This is further demonstrated by looking at Wal-mart. It has over 6,000 suppliers. Of those 6,000 suppliers, 5,000 are in China.

How a Flat World Impacts Your Online Business

A flat world means that your online business is open game to competition. The same way in which call centers, engineering projects, IRS tax preparation and living trust documents have been out-sourced to offshore companies indicates it is only a matter of time before foreign corporations come into the online market by establishing a domestic presence, while doing all the processing out of, say, India. It is hard for a online owner who pays a receptionist $14,000 – $20,000 a year to compete when the ENTIRE staffing costs of an overseas online entity can be subsidized for the same amount.

Of course the U.S. branch office of an overseas company will employ a facade of Americans as the “in-office” salespeople. But all of the processing work (and probably customer service) will be handled by more cost effective labor alternatives.

Small Online Companies Will Be Hurt Most

Due to economies of scale, smaller online companies will likely be the first to feel the impact of globalization. Historically, highly fragmented mom-and-pop businesses like donut stores (Dunkin Donuts) and corner markets (7-11) were consolidated or franchised into more efficient business identities. And we have witnessed the constant consumption of small local banks firms merging with and being consumed by larger regional banks.

The economies of scale coupled with the inexpensive cost of overseas labor will cause small online companies to fall by the wayside. Yes… this could mean you.

Not Me!!!

I know, I know… I can hear you now. You are saying, “I have customers who have been with me for years, they will never leave me.” These were the dying last words uttered by small hardware store owners as Home Depot swooped into their town. Are there small hardware stores left? Sure, but not very many, and their owners are not earning as much.

Do you really believe customers will buy from you if there is a significant price differential? When was the last time most people paid attention (when they bought their cell phone) as to where it was made? They didn’t. Price was the primary consideration when purchasing this commodity.

Like it or not, the online industry has moved from a customer based service to a commodity of interest rates.

How A Flat World Impacts Your Children.

Your children will be impacted as well. First, if you have ever envisioned handing your company over to your grown children when you retire, there just might not be much left to give them. Second, assuming your child wants to become an engineer, they will no longer be competing with only U.S. students to get a good education. Your child is also now competing with international children who are attending college and becoming engineers in overseas countries. American companies looking to hire engineers have the option of hiring a $30,000+ freshly graduated U.S. college student or a $10,000 experienced engineer from China or India.

“Mama, ‘Do’ Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”

So what jobs are safe for your children? According to Friedman, jobs that require a physical presence, such as: physicians, car mechanics, grocery workers, coaches, negotiators and the like. Teachers as well, until distant learning and tele-classes cause them to fall to the globalization wave.

There is a country song that says, “Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.” But because being a cowboy requires an actual physical presence with the cows, it could be a safe job… until even more countries grow their own cattle and export meat to the U.S.

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How a Fruitcake Can Increase Your Web Site Sales (A fruitcake tells all)

You know, sometimes you turn on TV in the summer, and there appears a movie with snow on the ground or it takes place at Christmas. It just seems so out of place with the sweat running down your face or the sound of lawnmowers in the background. Well, if you read this during the holidays, then you are in luck, it will appear that I wrote it just for you. But since I am posting this in March, I am going to be wrong 11 months of the year… sorry.

Kill The Fruitcake

There were probably many lucky recipients of a fruitcake during the holidays. Some of those proud owners immediately started to consider various ways to “kill the fruitcake.” Some are thinking of re-gifting it to that “favorite aunt” or even to a “nosy neighbor,” while others are wondering if the fruitcake would really work as a doorstop or an anchor for your fishing boat.

I have to admit, I became a fruitcake owner.

But All Web Site Owners Are Smart

As we all know, mortgage web site owners tend to be a bit smarter than regular people. If you are like me, you too would probably be looking at that fruitcake and asking, in a soft and inquisitive voice, what you can learn about how to increase your mortgage sales from this tasty culinary treat.

I had just finished reading an article on Internet marketing by Robert Bly and Sandy Franks, and it just happened to be discussing fruitcakes. I may have had a holiday drink or two as I read the article. I felt that I was slowly drifting off.

As I looked into those big brown date and raisin eyes of the fruitcake, I could almost hear it plead with me, promising to tell me a story of its heritage, and also promising me a valuable secret. I had a few minutes available, and I am always willing to learn, so I told the cute little fruitcake to proceed.

First a Little History

The fruitcake begins with a story. “Let me tell you about our rich history. Fruitcakes are typically holiday cakes which have, surprise, a very heavy fruit content. The history of fruitcakes dates back to Roman times. Our original recipes included pine nuts and raisins that were mixed into barley mash. Later, honey, spices and preserved fruits were incorporated. During the 1700’s, Europeans created a celebratory fruitcake at the end of the nut harvest to be saved and eaten the next year to celebrate the beginning of the next harvest. As of late, people have been adding, yum, rum or whiskey to fruitcakes. We like that.

The fruitcake went on to say, “Sadly, though, we fruitcakes have fallen out of favor (but not flavor), and we are the target of many jokes. I was sitting in this closet – oh, it must have been, maybe, 1988. My owner would watch Johnny Carson every night. I loved to listen to his jokes, but I heard Johnny-boy say, ‘The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.’ I have to tell you I was glad when Carson retired.”

The fruitcake could tell that, while I was listening, I was really waiting for the secret.

The Secret of the Fruitcake

“Alright, alright,” said the fruitcake, “I will tell you a little secret that will help you.”

I remember thinking that either this fruitcake had a lot of rum in it, or I did. I wasn’t quite sure which.

“I want to tell you the story of how one of our fruitcake brethren helped their owners increase their sales of fruitcakes. And the way that they did it, can certainly help you and your business.”

Hmm, I perked up a bit.

“There is this bakery in Texas, the Collin Street Bakery, which was struggling to sell our fruitcakes. The owners knew that we were delicious. But the word ‘fruitcake’ had a negative image. They also knew that one of the reasons their Texan fruitcakes tasted so good is they are made with pecans grown on the Texas river banks.”

“Before I go any further, let me ask you a few questions,” said the fruitcake. “Fish eggs or caviar?”

“What?” I asked.

“When you go to a restaurant, would you pay $75 for ‘a scoop of fish eggs?'”

Before I could respond, the fruitcake went on to say, “Would you pay $75 for this at a restaurant? ‘We maintain our reputation as the premier restaurant by offering only the finest Beluga caviar available, flown in each night from the Caspian Sea. Our four star chefs then hand select only the finest caviar from each catch. These Beluga pearls are the most delicate and have a mild buttery flavor. You will absolutely love this caviar.”

“Is this a trick question?” I respond.

“Nope, it’s really a matter of semantics. How powerfully do you write your words to influence buyers?”

“Wow,” I thought, “There must be really a lot of rum in this fruitcake.”

The fruitcake went on, “Which sounds better? A hamburger or a free-range sirloin burger grown on the Argentine pampus? A salad? Or fresh organic lettuce, with organic hot-house tomatoes, with a sprig of mint?”

“This brings me back to the Collin Street Bakery. They used words to reposition our lowly stature as a fruitcake, and rechristened us the ‘Native Texas Pecan Cake.’ Sales took off.”

The fruitcake explained, “This simple change of words, from fruitcake to ‘Native Texas Pecan Cake’ resulted in direct mail response rates increasing by sixty percent. The promotion was so successful, that the bakery sent 12 million pieces of mail. My fellow fruitcakes are everywhere.”

Applying the Fruitcake Secret

“Ahh, I get it,” I said. “All I have to do is go back and use more compelling content, and use words that clearly communicate how the mortgages I provide can help and benefit my visitors.”

“Yep,” said the fruitcake, “That is pretty good for a human.”

Save The Fruitcakes…

So now you know that while many people want to “kill the fruitcake”… that really isn’t what is best for you. Once you learn and listen what a fruitcake can teach you, you may start your own grassroots group to “save the fruitcakes.”

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