Monthly Archives: March 2011 | Force 5
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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Mar
29

The Boss Rules #4: The Perfect Day

Posted on March 29, 2011 by butch

I remember walking into Joe's office pretty frustrated.  I’d had one of those days - the bad kind.  Actually, I’d had about 10 of those days in a row, placing me exactly halfway to a pretty lousy month.  I had recently accepted a new role leading a new team and things were just not happening the way I had envisioned.  Already we were missing deadlines, delivering below-standard work, and experiencing infighting and poor moral.  As a newer manager I was tired and frustrated.   I wondered if I was ever going to be able to pull out of the tailspin I found myself in.

“I just don’t know where to begin,” I said to Joe, “I feel like I’m just getting started but I’m losing control of the team already.”

Joe looked at me and said, “Maybe a good place to start is by describing the perfect day.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” he replied, “describe the perfect day.”

I thought for a moment, “Well, I guess the perfect day would mean that we’d hit all our deadlines with great work and we’d all be happy about it.” 

“No,” he said, “I’d like you to think smaller than that.  What would be the perfect day for you – one sentence at a time? Say something like ‘I wake up in the morning and I feel refreshed.’

I repeated after him, “I wake up in the morning and I feel refreshed,”

“Good. What’s next?” he replied.

“I come to work and say, ‘good morning’ to everyone and they’re glad to see me.”

“Excellent!”

I continued, “Then, I run a great morning meeting.” 

“Now, you’re getting it!” he exclaimed, “Butch, I’d like you to make a sentence of each and every event that would describe a perfect day for you.  Then, when you’re done, I’d like you to answer a single question for each of these events.  Here’s the question:  In order for this to happen, what must be true?”

He could tell I was confused. 

“So,” he replied, “If you say, ‘I wake up feeling refreshed,’ what must be true is that you may have go to bed at an earlier time.  If you say, ‘I run a great meeting’ , one of the things that might need to be true is that you carve more time to prepare for the meeting.  There aren't any perfect days, Butch, but maybe by going through this exercise, you can identify a few things you can do to get the day and your team a little bit closer to good."

Mar
28

Black Hat SEO will git you run out of town Pardner

Posted on March 28, 2011 by dmorgan

Just like in the ole West, or at least as our Western movies tell us, Black hats are villains – and usually up to “no good”.

The New York Times recently noticed something odd when performing Google searches on terms as diverse as bedding, skinny jeans, area rugs and grommet-top curtains. "You could imagine a dozen contenders for each of these searches," writes David Segal. "But in the last several months, one name turned up, with uncanny regularity, in the No. 1 spot for each and every term: JCPenney." The retailer's ranking even bested manufacturer Samsonite.com in Google searches for Samsonite carry-on luggage.

They discovered the strikingly unsubtle use of "black hat" optimization—including an array of phony sites that appeared to exist for the sole purpose of linking to the store's website.

"There are links to JCPenney.com's dresses page on sites about diseases, cameras, cars, dogs, aluminum sheets, travel, snoring, diamond drills, bathroom tiles, hotel furniture, online games, commodities, fishing, Adobe Flash, glass shower doors, jokes and dentists—and the list goes on," noted Doug Pierce of Blue Fountain Media, a firm hired by the New York Times to investigate. He found an array of phony sites that appeared to exist for the sole purpose of linking to the store's website.Though not illegal, black-hat tactics are strictly verboten in the Google rulebook. "The company draws a pretty thick line between techniques it considers deceptive and 'white hat' approaches, which are offered by hundreds of consulting firms and are legitimate ways to increase a site's visibility.

Google retaliated with a "manual action" against JCPenney. In the space of two hours, for instance, the retailer's No. 1 ranking for Samsonite carry-on luggage plummeted to No. 71. Rankings for other search terms underwent similarly dramatic demotions.

The Po!nt: In the end, cheaters never win. Sure, everyone's trying to boost their search-engine rankings. Just make sure you follow Google's ground rules when you do it.
Source:The full (and very interesting article) The New York Times.

Mar
15

Tags Give Starcraft Marine a Place in the Sun…

Posted on March 15, 2011 by Christian

In the dreary days of January and February, many of us find a boat show on the weekend—letting us dream of warmer days, sand and sun filled holidays, and hours on the nearest lake.

Sitting on a boat inside a convention center doesn’t quite fill the bill—does it? This year, Starcraft Marine decided to help boating enthusiast get to that “happy place” in their mind a little quicker… with the help smart phone technology and QR codes. When the Starcraft marine marketing staff planned their new product launch and winter show activities, Peter Barrett, Executive Vice President of Marketing wanted Starcraft customers to experience the joys of boating by showing them beautiful video footage of their boats on the water while highlighting the numerous Starcraft features that had received high marks in independent tests. To convey the most current videos and information to their customers, Starcraft decided to use smart tag codes in their promotional materials. Steve Huber, Marketing coordinator at Starcraft considered QR codes and Microsoft tags as potential ways to do this. Steve asked Force 5 to help investigate the viability of the code/tag process.

In our investigation, Force 5 web developers found that both QR codes and the Microsoft tag manager have their pros and cons. The tag manager has a very nice reporting feature built into its application that steered them towards using this system. However, any tag/code system is limited to doing only a few things—direct a viewer to a web site, dial a phone number, or send a text response. The interactivity with the viewer is limited beyond that. In order to fully engage the consumer and capture as much information as allowed, Force 5 decided to enhance the interaction by developing a small, web-based app that enables Starcraft to customize the customer options based on the application.

This interface allows for a very robust customer experience. With the help of Microsoft tags, Starcraft lets their boat show attendees, those viewing a brochure, or even reading an ad in a boating magazine watch fun and informative video about their favorite boat—then take action.

 

Viewer Scanning a BoaTAG™
Starcraft BoaTAG™ in Action

 

Force 5 directs the Microsoft tag to a URL which is customized per the requirements of that particular tag. As a part of general functionality, the viewer can watch a video, then share that with a friend, continue on to a web site, look up a marine dealer, or order a brochure. Additional interactions can be added as needed. Through Force 5’s administration, the viewer can be allowed to have any or all of the interactions. For example, someone scanning the tag from a magazine ad could see all the options—someone scanning the tag on a boat may only be given the video, brochure or web option – someone scanning the brochure will see the video, but will not need the link to the brochure, etc.

BoaTAG™ being Scanned
Starcraft BoaTAG™ being Scanned

 

The analytics/metrics for the Force 5 combined system are phenomenal. Microsoft offers hits and geo tracking per tag, and because Force 5 serves the videos and the additional pages, they can track video views, directs to form pages, etc.—this acts as a verification of the Microsoft reporting accuracy, and provides Starcraft with excellent metrics for ad efficiency and conversions.

Here are the details:

System Architecture

The Smoker BoaTAG™ system is comprised of three primary parts on the server side (the 2d-barcode interface, the landing page manager, and the reporting and analytics engine) and the tag scanning software on the mobile device.

2-D Barcode Interface Engine

The team at Force 5 found that the Microsoft TAG system (http://tag.microsoft.com) proved to be the most robust and elegant solution for Starcraft The ability to administer this portion of the system by novice users; generate and print tags in multiple formats, change the URL of the target of a tag; coupled with the non-invasive tracking of mobile devices; and the excellent metrics and reporting were all key in Force 5’s decision to recommend it as the barcode management system.

Each BoaTAG™ is defined within the Microsoft TAG system. The Microsoft system is very easy to administer, providing the user with many options for generating both black and white as well as color Tags.

Color Microsoft Tag

Rendered in Color

Black and White Microsoft Tag

Rendered in Black and White

Microsoft has been very generous in the free functionality that the system provides. Anyone with a Microsoft LiveID can log into the Microsoft system and start creating TAGs.

Microsoft TAG Admin
Microsoft TAG Admin

From the administrative interface, the user can select a variety of ways to render and download the TAG image. The options cover both color and greyscale renderings as well as a variety of raster and vector image formats.

The Microsoft system allows for a variety of TAG types. The most common are dialer (used to tell the phone to dial a certain number), vCard (used to store a contact entry to be used as a digital business card) and the URL. The URL tag provides the system builder with the most power. From within the Microsoft interface the user can assign the tag to target any URL. This allows for a large amount of customization for the system designer as well as the ability to make modifications as needed as the system evolves (without having to reprint the TAGs themselves). Within that URL Microsoft exposes a token that allows that particular device to be uniquely identified within this system.

Microsoft TAG Admin

Editing Microsoft TAG details

Microsoft has included privacy controls which allow the device to be uniquely identified only within a single Tag account. This means that different organizations cannot share or sell identifiable information to other organizations using the identifier defined within the TAG system. More information about the Microsoft TAG system can be found at their site at: http://tag.microsoft.com.

Landing Page Management System

Once the user scans a tag, and the Tag management system has registered it, the user needs to be directed to a location. This is where Force 5’s Landing Page Management system comes into play. In order for the tag to be interesting and interactive for the end user, there has to be good content on the “other end” of it. This can be a webpage, video, or any other type of media. Force 5 recommended that Starcraft offer a variety of options available to the customer. They also suggested that when a user scans the tag, that they be given the opportunity to view the media (a video hosted on the Smoker YouTube channel), share the media page (via email), click a link to be able to request more information, and click a link to request the location of the nearest dealer. In order to support this functionality, Force 5 created a dynamic, database driven, system to provide landing pages depending on the tag that was scanned, and the options selected to show the viewer for that tag.

BoaTAG™ Landing Page

BoaTAG™ Landing Page

When a TAG is set up within the barcode management system, the URL field of that tag points to a single landing page. That page URL contains the tag “ID” and the unique device ID, as query string parameters. From that information a landing page is built and rendered for the user on their mobile device. The selected information provided to the user is easily understood. The user can view the video (optionally in full screen mode) as well as select the operations like sharing and requesting more information. Additional “buttons” are easily added from within the administrative interface, as they are simply database records tied to that tag “ID.” The Landing Page Management system also includes more detailed analytic information that is not provided by the 2d barcode system. The unique identifier is stored and associated data can then be reported on based on the unique ID or in aggregate.

BoaTAG™ Heat Map

BoaTAG™ Heat Map

Reporting and Analytics

Now that customers have been scanning the tag and data has been collected, how do you know if your campaign has been a success and how much “traffic” has been generated? This is where the reporting side of the system shines. Both the 2d Barcode Management system from Microsoft as well as Force 5’s Landing Page Management system includes information that can be used to measure success. Microsoft has provided several reports with their TAG system. These reports include the scan “hit counts,” both by day and category defined within the system. It also includes a “Heat Map” that can report to the campaign administrator where, geographically, the most number of scans have been accessed.

BoaTAG™ Scan Chart

BoaTAG™ Scan Chart

The Landing Page Management system includes other metrics as well. Since the customer is simply accessing a webpage, the full suite of web analytic tools is at the system designer’s disposal. This allows reports based on device types and unique identifier to be generated. For example, the administrator can see which users are the most active in the system, what devices they should target, as well as the click rates for the additional “buttons” on the landing page. QR codes and other scan-able tags are here to stay- at least for a while. Better, faster types of interactive codes are on their way. Digital invisible watermarks for ads and digital audio tags are being developed as you read this. All of these will provide a rich media experience for the viewer and allow the advertiser to obtain better viewer metrics. Tags are enhancements to the experience. The key is to formulate workable marketing solutions using these tools. We at Force 5 would love to help you achieve your vision. For more information, visit www.discoverforce5.com, and fill out the contact form. We would love to hear from you.

Mar
04

The Boss Rules: Rule #3

Posted on March 4, 2011 by butch

I’ve worked for a lot of years, enjoyed a lot of roles in my career, and had a lot of supervisors who imparted their wisdom to me.   I thought I would share some of their best stuff with you in this series of posts called, “The Boss Rules.”

Rule #3:  Become an "Owner"

Sometimes the best things a boss can say to you hurt a little.  I remember going into a review feeling pretty good - sales were above goal, profits were good, and there had been no mutinies.  I was a newer sales manager so I was comfortable (and probably a little cocky) that all the metrics were where they needed to be as I walked into Joe's office.

At the end of my review Joe said, “Butch, you’re becoming a fine manager and things are looking pretty good.  But you know, what I really want you to do is focus on becoming an owner.”

I thought, “An owner!  Am I being offered a stock option?”  But then I remembered we were a privately held company.

“Butch, we serve a lot of restaurants,” he said.  “Have you ever noticed the difference the owner of a restaurant behaves compared to the rest of his staff? “

“Yes,” I replied, “They stay late and come in early, they shovel the drive when it snows, and they fill in for the cook who calls in sick.  They work really hard.  And I think I’ve been doing those things.”

“You are doing those things, Butch, and that’s really good,” he said. “But there’s something else about ownership you should consider:  owners put their family names on the signs outside.  At the end of the day, not matter what calamity befalls them; owners know that they must take care of their customers because their business is a reflection not only of them, but of their entire family.”

“I’m proud of my work, Joe.”

“I know you are and you should be, but ownership is more than doing good work.  Ownership is an attitude.  When a customer at a restaurant has a complaint about a bad experience, a manager says, ‘Sorry, my cook called in sick’ or ‘we’re short of staff’ or ‘my delivery guy was late’ or ‘our internet connection went down.’  But the truth is:  Customers don’t care about why they didn’t get a good meal; they just want a good meal.  Owners are ultimately responsible and they have to behave accordingly. 

Butch, during our last review you said you were going to get an appointment at the Burger Boy account. When I asked you about how that was going, you said ‘I sent three letters, four emails, a made three phone calls but they haven’t called me back yet.’  That’s an effort, Butch, and that’s exactly what a manager would do.  But an owner would just get the appointment – some way, somehow – he’d figure it out.  Does that make sense?”

“Joe, I was just trying to tell you I was making an effort.”

“I know Butch, but I want you to know that I trust you and I want to empower you.  So, moving forward, when we decide to do something, I’m going to ask you just one question:

       ‘Do you own this?’ 

If you say ‘yes’ then I’ll assume it’s going to happen.  I’ll assume you’ll give it every possible effort, and I won’t have to worry that it’s going to happen.  And I’ll assume you will ask me for help if you can’t get it done on your own.  And when I ask you about it, you can say to me, ‘I have this done’ or ‘I don’t.’  Cool?”

“Cool.  I can own this.”