My #2016 #Technology #Predictions

What is going to happen in the tech world in 2016?

This article is another version of the article I published in Linkedin about technology changes in 2016.  You can read that article (same pretty much, by clicking here on Linkedin if you want to follow me there.  The reason I repost my articles is Linkedin is not very diligent at getting my articles outside of Linkedin.

If you have read Innevitable Surprises by Peter Schwartz, you will understand why I think these things will happen. He has a theoretical way of predicting things and I just use his theories to come up with these “hair-brain” ideas.  Here are my tech predictions for 2016.

2016 Technology Predictions

1. Periscope Paid Services
I think that Periscope will figure out a way they can let users pay for services and let other users to make money from these services in both marketplaces and private sessions.  My prediction is that Periscope will become one of the faster growth revenue models in 2016.  I can only imagine what these services will be. But let’s just say video conferences, tours, etc. Somebody is going to make some money here, and as many who follow me know, I find Periscope very compelling!

2. The iBook
I have been waiting for Apple to introduce a version of the iPad that has two sides and closes up like a book.  It makes total sense because then you can close her up and not smash the screen.  Come on Apple, you have pretty much made every other kind of iPad thingy. Plus humans are used to reading books like books not like smartphones!

3.  The Drone Car
Why not? This was bound to happen!  We have seen so many of these drones moving packages and zipping around everywhere. I predict we will see a drone based vehicle for humans as a prototype in 2016.

4. Real Equity Tech Crowd Funding
This is the year you will be able to buy very early shares in the next Apple, Priceline or Twitter.  The government is passing Title 3 and Title 4 in 2016.  It is real and basically it will allow you to buy a couple hundred dollars worth of shares in early startups, long before Venture Capital comes into the picture!  And Venture Capital is not happy about the fact that you can get ahead of them.  It is a big time opportunity for the little investor out there!

5. Interactive Picture Frames
We have all seen those cheap digital picture frames you can buy at Wal-Mart.  I think that this year we will see cheap interactive digital picture frames.  So now you can not just watch pictures of your relatives, but it can ring and say hello!  This is good and cool, but kind of creepy.  This should be the year for that interactive video phone frame right on the wall!

6. Clouds In The Closet
I have come across this idea several times.  Right now we all work with cloud computing at some data center, some where out there.  I think a lot of companies will be bringing a new type of technology in-house for a lot of reasons.  It will however resemble and interact with the cloud.  This is really another Internet of Things concept, but the cloud comes home baby!

7. Mechanic In Your Car
The founder of Waze is working diligently on building an interactive marketplace where mechanics can access your cars remotely, bid on fixing your problem and monitor your car.  It’s a definite thing about to happen.  Market forces are working themselves out on this one, but they are focused and dis-inter-mediation is coming soon! (That’s an MBA term for removing the middle man).  Not sure who the middle man is in this case, but it is happening.

8. Big Guys Offer Beacon Services
I think Apple and Google are going to be crushing the beacon market with a variety of services that let anybody from retail to hospitals (who will pay) know when people arrive, where they go in the building and lots of other stats.  We see a ton of small companies trying to enter this market, but it really will take Apple and Google to do it to make it happen. Why is it going to happen big time?  Because it is the next evolution in Geospatial services!

9. Home Automation China Black Boxes
I predict a number of amazing products will come out of China that will assist in automating the home cheaply and efficiently, which can be purchased at Wal-Mart.  What will they be.  Well, how about a little black box that monitors your air quality.  How about one that is a connected smoke detector?  How about one to test your water?  How about one to monitor your kids?  How about one to monitor your plants.  Well, you get the picture.  Little black boxes for you and me to pop on the wifi to do little chores!

10. The End Of Cable As We Know It
I think 2016 will result in Internet based companies Netflix, Apple and Chrome (Google) and a few others offering a complete way out of Cable with all the “live” channels you want.  And take that Comcast!  I think that this is long overdue and there seems to have been a quiet period, but tech is growing exponentially.  Whatever the next evolution of this tech it will arrive and take the world by storm, because obviously what Comcast and AT&T offer right now is pretty much crap!

That is my prediction for 2016.  Let’s see if any of these hair-brained ideas happen!  If you want to challenge me or add any more then please add more on my original Linkedin article by clicking here. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/tech-predictions-2016-tech2016-dan-gudema?trk=hp-feed-article-title-like

Let’s come back to this article next year and compare notes, and see how many I have hit the nail on the head with!

By the way, how do I come up with these ideas.

Well, I run a tech startup pitch event in Boca Raton and work as a startup consultant, build brochure and eCommerce websites and have written a couple books about the Internet, tech and startups.

The company I run is called StartupPOP @ http://startupPOP.com.  StartupPOP is running a tech startup pitch event monthly in South Florida!  However, we are expanding nationally!

We are looking for local event planners to run our startup pitch events in other US cities.

 

Are you looking for a way to expand your networking and succeed with YOUR OWN event locally and still want to be part of a national organization?

If you think you have the capability to run a startup pitch event locally in your city or town and are interested in working with our national organization to learn how to do the event correctly, drive traffic, monetize the event and succeed at it then please sign up here on StartupPOP.com and we can start to have a conversation.  You don’t have to leave the day job.  You don’t have to be a startup expert, though we do prefer you have some inclination towards startups (like you like them at least!).  You need to be able to use a web interface, speak in front of small crowds, have some organization abilities and be somewhat optimistic!  If you are a consultant and already looking for clients, then this is perfect for you!  If you are already running a Meetup Networking group related to Startups, you can also join us and co-run your event with our pitch event! There could be even some money made from each event.  Let me know if you are interested in this part-time job!

Thank,

Dan Gudema
dan@startuppop.com

Sick Start-up Syndrome

While managing DSX Labs for the past year, I have come across a variety tech start-ups in South Florida, mainly because we were running tech start-up pitch events in Boca Raton at The Greenhouse.

They range from 1 guy with just an idea to 3 people with a full blown app or website. They can have 100 years of combined experience or none at all.  We had a few 15 to 17 year olds interested in starting their own tech company.  There have been 1 or 2 where the entrepreneurs were in their 70s

Out of the 100 start-ups we met with, there were common patterns you could immediately identify.  These patterns can be success related or potential failure related. I call them patterns because they appear over and over again.  This is a generalization. I am being specific about a start-up.  And you know that generalizations could be wrong.  So this is just opinion.

Here are my list of start-up syndromes you need to look out for.  It’s like looking at your body in the mirror.  Some symptoms are obvious, some are not.

No Strategic Advantage
I have run into this myself.  You get going in some specific tech start-up direction.  You have a product.  You have built out some serious code!  Yet, you or you and your partners can not come up with a strategic advantage vs. a competitor.  Face it, you are building a commodity product at this point!

How To Fix: If it is early on, you can pivot or change something slightly that makes you competitive.  But pivoting will take some serious pain and some capital.  It may not be possible. You have to have a compelling reason or value proposition for customers.  Find it immediately.  Sometimes it is right in front of you and you are ignoring it.

Tech Svengali Has Taken Over The Show
This I have seen many times.  The actual business owners have been mesmerized and persuaded by some tech guy to let him make all the decisions. Yet, either he or she is not really all that he says he is or really has no clue what the market wants.  The tech Svengali may actually have their best interest at heart for you. But they are not you!

How To Fix: Sadly enough, if this has gone on too far it could be the death of the start-up.  Start-up owners need to be in charge of their ventures and give it direction.  The solution is often to let him go and if it is too late, it could be time to shut down the operation.

Money Looking For A Place To Spend It!
Sometimes in some rare cases, there is a partner or a person with a boatload of personal wealth looking to hit the next one out of the park.  They are looking at Facebook and saying “hey I can do that!”  But they are forgetting one thing; they don’t know anything about tech, or their knowledge is cloudy because they themselves are not the demographic they are serving.  So they spend like crazy, hire tons of people and find themselves in a pickle.

How To Fix: My recommendation to these want to be billionaires is stop being the owner and start being the investor when you have the capital. There are a good 20 ventures in south Florida right now that could use $50k and have a great start-up that needs capital.  Instead of spending $300k on your “idea” (which is just an idea) become the investor and invest in 6 start-up ventures. At least then you will have 6 lottery tickets and not 1.

One Feature Does Not Make A Solution
I have had a bunch of start-ups come to me with a concept that is simply a smaller piece of a larger puzzle.  For instance, I have heard of a few improvements to dating businesses.  So the start-up concept is a small piece of what dating sites do, and can’t really be a product unto itself.  Or another good example is a site that just does nice 3D products for sale.

How To Fix: Typically I would recommend that the start-up goes back and rethinks the whole idea.  Just a small part of something bigger is not enough.  One way to fix this is to pivot into being a B2B software provider. So instead of selling 3D products yourself, your start-up provides the technology for other e-commerce companies. Different market, but then you can focus on a narrow feature you offer!

Nobody Is In Charge
A single person building a start-up without a partner or team is an issue. What is a bigger issue is a group of founders with nobody actually in charge.  When they ask you, the consultant, to be in charge and be the decision-maker, you know they have bigger issues than you can really deal with in one session.

How To Fix: One of the partners has to be the CEO.  There has to be an ultimate decision-maker.  If you can’t make that decision, then maybe the start-up should end now.

Can’t Describe What You Do
I have had this problem myself several times.  It is a common problem. Why does this happen?  My answer to why it happens to me is if you spend a year or longer on a start-up you start to lose you way (and you mind) and you end up changing the business around,  You get lost as to what you ultimate do. This is especially true if you are pivoting or evolving to something else. And we are always evolving. What is your service and can you describe it?  If not, you have to recognize the problem and fix it.

How To Fix: Best to meet to mentors and advisers and figure this out.  I had a great question asked of me recently about my start-up. That question was “What Was The Aha Moment?”  At that moment I went back in time and thought carefully about that moment. This is the moment when you first had the idea.  Sometimes that moment describes the problem you are solving and ultimately putting together a solution statement solves that problem.

That’s it for now.  I could add a hundred of these items to this blog, but I am publishing anyway.  Maybe there will be a part II.

Have a great day!

Do Less, Do It Well, Get Paid

As we are homing in on the final features of Krowde, our new software platform, it occurred to me that doing one thing well as opposed to doing many things not so well makes more and more sense.  We need to do less!  We need to do that one thing we are doing quite well, and we need to prove our business model.  So this is the statement as to where we are at today.  It is not that clear still.

Krowde is a mobile platform for retail business to communicate with their customers.

Explaining Is The Challenge

That said, I have struggled with the most fundamental part of the start-up business process, which is explaining what we are building in one sentence.  That is a real problem.  It is enough of a problem that one of my mentors told me outright if you can’t explain what you got in one sentence then you probably have nothing and should consider quitting now!   While I do agree with him, I am also challenging myself to fix this problem.   And I know I can do it because I am a writer. I also ask mentors and friends to help me solve this problem. They just have to keep patient as I ask them to listen to me, while I ramble on about this stuff.

What Does This Have To Do With Do Less, Do It Well, Get Paid.

Well, what happens to guys like me is we get all excited by the technology.  We love this feature and that feature and this extension and that plugin thing.  Yes, there are a ton of cool things we could do with what we are doing!  Some of that is the endless possibilities of a web app.  But, the fact is that we need to reverse course, choose a micro niche market at first, reduce all our features to the bare minimum and then find out if customers are willing to pay for it.

How Does This Impact What We Do

So as we hammer down to the basic MVP (Minimum Viable Product), we are shedding features that can wait.  We are skipping systems and solutions that are not necessary now.  We are focused on just about getting to market and not all the things we could be doing. So the sentence about what we do; it do needs to be succinct and clear!  That is a challenge when we love to think about the possibilities of the future.  But the future is a long way off.

Get Cold To Tech

I just have one thing I want right now and that is both a working version and 10 customers testing it out.  Thinking is ok, but it all goes on the like to have list.

 

Learning Failing Fast The Hard Way

What Is Failing Fast?

Simply put, failing fast means you find out right away that your idea, concept, new product is a dud, so you can either stop what you are doing or make some serious corrections.  But failing really means failing, and it generally means giving up earlier in the process.  It’s a good thing, and something like 90% of tech companies I run into ignore.   Tech guys hold fast to their concept way beyond when it was time to give up.  I know, I am one of these guys.

Start-ups Need To Fail Faster

Deep into Brad Feld’s book “Do More Faster”, there is a short chapter on failing fast for start-ups.  What his writer, because it was written by other entrepreneurs, is saying is find out right away if the product or service you are creating is going to make it or not make it financially.  Trust me, this is a definite area I have completely failed at, and I have followed around other people’s failing ideas like a pig stuck in the mud.  A lot of this is because of a lack of experience.  All that corporate experience I have gained over the years do not count, because what you need for a start-up is not what you need for a corporate gig.

Failing Even Bigger And Slower

But I think failing fast is not just a concept for start-ups.  In most big companies they have made failing slow an art form.  To be 80% more efficient corporations should stop wasting their time with concepts that failing earlier.  If they did this, billions would be saved.  In fact, entire industries have disappeared because corporations were pursuing failing concept for years.  It keeps lots of employed, but it is oh so annoying. I was talking with somebody today about a large tech company acquiring a small tech company recently.  What typically happens next is complete paralysis.  It’s like a big corporate giant eats the small company and then anything that resembles change become nearly impossible or so institutional that nobody wants to fail at anything.  So how can you fail fast in that situation.

Smaller Means Nimbler

So this is where small start-ups have an advantage.  Before blowing millions or billions, a small tech start-up can take a few small actions to end the hypocrisy and stupidity early on.  They can create a prototype or barely working product and find out from customers if they are going to pay, use it or whatever they need to prove the market works.  Even that may have the unintended consequence of telling the entrepreneur to go ahead with a product or service, when they should have just failed right there.  Let’s say you interviewed the wrong people who told you the wrong information.  Well, you still have a chance to fail early, just not as early.

Misread Market Size

Now that I know better, it is best to start with market size, not product or even customer to determine if you should stop now and fail fast. Let’s say you have created a great service that a few people love, and while you are not making any money, you know you are doing good for the world and helping people.  I will give you an imaginary service, like a mobile app which gives men advice on what to do for the women in their lives and when to do it, like “buying flowers on a friday gets a 60% approval rating from women vs. Thursday”.  Ok, cool app, mobile app, even runs and works and all that jazz.  But then will people pay for it and how many.  Sudden you add it up, wow, if I collect that 50 cents from the 1,000,000 potential real customers, and only .0001 pay, then wow I will have made $5000 on this venture in total.  Well, just fail now!  It may have been cool, but trust me I have been involved with a not so profitable business for many years with no exit strategy and it sucks.

Quit, But Don’t Always Quit

I am not saying that you should quit your venture right now, I am just saying stop taking years to figure out that there is no money to be made and that you are wasting years of  your life.  You should just try to figure this out early on.  You need to know what the total market opportunity is.  In high-tech I now say when they use the words “Billions” I don’t like it.  I want to hear the words “Hundreds of Billions” or “Trillions” as far as market size.  Sometimes there are many reasons to stay in a business and see it through, but if you see a problem with your concept or your idea and the market does not make sense, then stop now and move on to something which can make you money and make a living.

 

Dealing with Feature Overload in Web Product Management

Simplify, Simplify Again, and Simplify a 3rd time

Having come into contact with at least 20 different websites and start-ups over the past 2 months, plus having to manage all the features in our new start-up Krowde, I am starting to see the light on the words “Simplify, Simply Again, and Simply a 3rd time”.  Back when we were at Caffeine Spaces in Boca Raton, someone wrote this on the dry erase board.  It has a lot of meaning to me and can be applied to so many aspects of building out a website or mobile app from design, functionality, marketing, architecture and other aspects of these tech start ups.  I am focused on product management in this context.  (but I could write another article on any of those disciplines)

Feature Junkie

It has a lot of meaning to me because I am a feature junkie. Everytime I come up with a new product or concept, I can think of  a million cool features.  This is what we do as creative people and when you combine that with a technologist, more specifically a web developer, you can have a thousand little features that are cool and different and meant to change the world, even a world within a world.  But overall, what you are doing with complexity sometimes, is really showing off your ego.    We all want to show off what we can do, how smart we are, and we are, but not always in business.  Trust me, it’s my downfall.  In web product management too many features and quite often the wrong features can be the death of a product or at least delay it indefinitely before it goes live.

What’s The Delay And I Want It All Now!

Now, if you think about it, how can you produce all these features when your time is limited.  That is not the real question.  The real question is what features are really needed first, and what features can’t wait.  I can’t really expound on the features in Krowde that I am talking about, but I can come up with an imaginary app that I probably will never create.  Let’s call it Park Finder, and let’s say it was being built for iOS and Android.

Anyway,  you have spec’d out the mobile app.  You have come up with a dozen great features from a map with icons, a search of that map, a link to that park’s page, a listing and a small profile per park, the ability to share that Park with your friends instantly via Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, an ability to talk about that park, an ability to upload pictures about that park for others to see, rate that park, a list of parks by ratings, park contact info, park office instant chat.  Wait a second!  Park office instant chat.  That needs to go into the list of “Would Like” stuff.  And that is the issue.  In fact, that list has a lot of cool stuff, but ultimately his park finder app could actually be live and working with just 3 features, a search, a map and a link to the website for that park.  All the other park finder features sound so good in your head and they are, but the customers don’t know what they don’t know.

Customers Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

I like saying this line and it has come back in many conversations, because it is really important and tied to the simplification concept.   The second issue with product complexity occurs in the mind of the technology founder.  Sometimes they think that more is better.  They think that the value increases with number and breadth of features.  But it is not exactly the same for the customer or customers.  Customers don’t always think the same or use the same features.  When only 5 out of 1000 users used that feature, then of course it was not very important.  Also, from a development standpoint, what about getting the thing finished and out to the market.  That is what is important.

Timing

Getting the Park app out into the market, with limited features is the best way to do it.  It is what Fried says in Rework, Brad Feld says in his blog and it makes common sense.  If you want to get your product out there and in the market, only include at first the core features, the features that make your product usable.  It will not fail because it does not have all the final pieces and bells and whistles you envision.  It may be that the park finder app may have been well received and done very well with only these basic features.  You have the time to add new features after that.  Add your sharing, commenting, rating and other features later on.  It is painful, but worth it and the difference in your app making or not making it to market.

What Can I Live Without?

In the end people are the problem, because even I have fallen into the “I want it all” trap.  And then I was the problem. You think you can have it all, but sometimes more doesn’t necessarily sell your product.  Sometimes less does.  Sometimes doing a small thing well is more critical than anything.  There are products and services that are bigger, feature rich, etc, but they are not for the small boot strapped start-up.  There is a cost associated with more, and sometimes those features never amount to anything or any usage.  The people you can’t always control, because they may be in charge and have the purse strings.  But at least you understand yourself what the issues are, and can say to yourself, what can I live without?

5 Critical Must Answer Questions For Start-ups

After interacting with 5 different start-ups in the past month or so at all different levels, from an idea and no pitch to well funded and right at the MPV stage (not most valuable player, but Minimum Viable Product), I have honed it down to 5 critical questions for start-ups that they MUST get right or at least have an answer that makes sense.  And, let me say that I have often been a passive person when it comes to pushing start-ups this way or that or anybody for any reason because I am also under the belief that I don’t know most things (like the mind of a 12 year old person’s market).  I would say, admitting you don’t really know the answer is the first step towards finding an answer to these questions.  My proclivity for passivity is starting to wane, because quite frankly if you can’t answer these 5 questions correctly, then either you need to go back and start all over again (even if you are in year 2).  So I am no know-it-all, I am just going to question your status quo on what you think will be a successful service, app or product implementation but asking directly the most important questions. You decide if you’re answer is acceptable.  I also, speaking with an old friend who is involved with a ton of start-ups as well said to him, “Remember to be tougher on the next start-up guy/gal, because we often let clients fail because we don’t have the inner strength to say, NO YOU ARE WRONG”, at the right time and place (which is usually right at the beginning).  Now we all want to get paid as consultants, developers, lawyers, doctors, etc, but come on just to get the business keeping our mouths shut helps nobody in the end.  In fact the start-up will just fail badly, and quite often we knew why in the back of our heads, we just kept our mouth shut and got the pay check.

So here are the questions to ask the next start-up you come across, as well as the retorts you need to have in certain cases, so they don’t end up on a highway with no exits where the highway just ends:

1.  What is your business model or how do you make money?

2.  Describe your customer (personally who they are, what they are like, where they hang out and something tangible about them)?

3.  How are you planning on getting to market or getting critical mass?

4.  Who are you competing with?

5.  Who is in charge, is there already a problem personality on the management team and who is going to run it and who is standing behind the desk answering the phone all day.

Notice I left out one really important question, what is your product or service?  Believe or not, I am now putting that below these 5 questions.  It is important, but not as important as these questions.   I am starting to think a product can evolve, pivot, and become something else if it has to.  And a great team with the right resources in place can probably overcome any product/service question.  A dumb product obviously is a problem, but once again I am not going to be able to tell you what is dumb, successful or not.  I was out pitched a few months ago for our start-up social app by a group of kids with a game which blows the head off characters (huh!).  They got funded and we didn’t.  So maybe blowing heads off your mobile app characters is a great product.  It sounds stupid, but I don’t know.  I am not 12.

I am going to follow this blog article up with my thoughts on each of these questions, and how/why I think you could answer them right or wrong.  There are definitely wrong answers, like Facebook and we are better and bigger (get the picture). My answer to that was Wrong, we need to collaborate not compete (especially with ginormace, my son’s new word he invented, entities), that you can not imaginably compete with directly.  Collaborate not compete that is a mantra I picked up from CEO Space, and it rings true, especially with Facebook, since you can build an app within Facebook to get started and they are happy about it…

 

 

 

Tech Mind vs. Business Mind

I heard a great quote from a client running events over the past 25 years which went like this:

“You tech guys come up with cool ideas and try to find a way to make it work for the market.  [Putting his hands in the air and staring up at the ceiling] I start with who’s got the money and how can I take it from them!

When I first heard this from this person, I laughed because it is so true.  And since I have heard this quote I have repeated this quote to clients, friends at Caffeine Spaces and at Gold Coast Capital Ventures and everywhere I network at least once a week for the past 6 months!

Finally, after six months, I am finally sitting down and writing about this quote in my blog, because it has so many implications for programmers and kid entrepreneurs I meet with who want to start a small tech internet company and want to succeed but just can’t seem to get a tech start-up right.  And though it is not a hard and fast rule used in making decisions on what business to go in, determining the market potential is still the make or break point of deciding what business to go into.  Most of us techies just have a cool idea, but have no clue of the potential value of the concept or project and really don’t know who is willing to pay for it or what they are willing to pay for it.  Among the successful, there are those who figure this out right away and there are those are just get lucky being in the right place at the right time.  The right timers are the ones to watch out for, since they think they know something and the second time around is not always the same.

A Miniscule Market Inside Of A Tiny Market

Getting together for lunch with one of the founders of JDate about 6 weeks ago, we found some common ground discussing the issue of being in a start-up with a small market, and how this just limits what you are doing and that can kill the potential for investors.  It is important to choose your market wisely, and often techies don’t understand the market.  They just want to start coding.  For instance, the dating industry is generally speaking not the greatest sized market over all.  I am referring to market size by measuring how much revenue a year markets can produce.  I believe the dating industry is like a $2 billion dollar market a year globally (and though I use the word billion… it is not a good word when it comes to markets, because you never get 100% or even 10%, we are often lucky to get 2% market share).  E-commerce sales is $4 trillion a year globally and that market is terrific!  And if you were to create a Jewish dating site within the dating business, that will pretty much leave you with a $30 million dollar potential market size and basically 95% of that is already going to JDate, so what is your Total Addressable Market (the possible chances of a market)?  It’s really crap for creating THE next Jewish dating site since you will not unseat the leader  It could be a $5 million market, of which maybe you can capture 5%.  That is looking like $250k a year in revenue as your max potential and with an employee and a 40% margin… Get a real job.  It will pay more! Really not a place you want to go!

So, Why Do People Jump Into Crappy Markets?

This is where the tech mind overcomes the business mind!  I know, I have done it several times.  Techies and rational people get caught up in not the revenue size but the finesse of the project, how cool would it be to do x, y or z and either we have no marketing skills at all or we ignore the exit signs on the highway.  I guess we like to hear ourselves talk in the mirror about a cool technology or like to tell people what cool problem we will solve.  And yes tons of cool problems can be solved with tons of cool technical solutions, but the facts are the facts, market size is market size.  I had an MBA finance professor at Farleigh Dickinson in Madison, NJ who looked around the room and asked us what industry we worked in.  I was in Telco, and he said “maybe”.  Some people were school teachers, he shook his head no.  Stock broker, he shook his head no.  As soon as somebody said they worked in the pharmaceutical business he simply said, “I don’t care if you are going to be the bottom secretary, stay in that industry and you will retire rich…”  Point is, choose your market wisely.  Yachts and golfing are terrific markets for instance!

A Product In Search Of A Market

This is where tech guys and gals like me start.  We start with a cool thing and try to apply it to markets.  Stop right there!  Now, sometimes a cool invention or technology accidentally finds a market, but 90% of the time it does not.  Me thinks I can take a piece of web code in this market and shove it into that market.  I implore you to start over when it comes to your product, not just switch the website around or change the coding framework.  I have done this as well.  You have to start with the money each time you have a new product and figure out the market size, what they are willing to pay for it, what it is worth to the customer if at all, what the asset value you are creating is worth or what intangibles you are creating.  You see there is also the consideration of what your asset you will be creating and what that will be worth to a buyer, but we are not talking about customers now, we are talking about competitors and buyers of software companies!  Creating a tool that needs to be acquired by a Google or another company is another form of measuring the market before creating the technology.  In fact asset selling, not revenue is the number one way techies make it big.

The Socratic Within ME

Now I am going to reverse directions a bit and give you the upside of being a techie and start with technology and how you can figure out a path to the market.  Like a recent blog article I did on “Why I Don’t Really Know Anything” in the article How To Respond To New Ideas proves that there could be something within the techie cool thing you have been building that can be re-purposed for something real and marketable.  But you have to start from scratch in terms of the final product.  You simply have to match a problem you are solving with different markets, and switch the problem to a different market until you keep increasing the size of the market.  Now you may have to stay in a niche.  I recently met the founder of Veggidate (yes for vegetarians) and its small but that is a good niche to hide in.  So, let’s start again with the dating site.  So you still have not given up on the Jewish dating market.  You are determined, you are a programmer and you don’t listen well. Well, let’s either introduce your product in a new and growing market (mobile) or a new avenue (events) or a new methodology (education) and re-enter the market.  Because if you were able to conquer one of these three areas of markets that JDate site does not have ownership of, you would be able to get maybe a smidgen of a market, but more importantly, your company would be on the target list of successful businesses they are looking to buy along with a bunch of other people obsessed with serving a small market just because you like to…  But leave your expectation for financial success at the door.

 

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Web Feature Discovery Process – Part 3

This post is the 3rd post about the Web Feature Discovery Process. If you want to read all three articles, click here, to start with article 1, and click here to get to article 2.

So far in this series of articles, I have described dealing and identifying Assets and dealing with People, the two ingredients needed to build any web site feature. The next step is information discovery. The first article talked about Assets. Assets, as I describe in the first article, need to be understood and evaluated in an open and free environment, not restricted by management that has already indicated the final outcome. Knowing the exact, final website product on day one is ok as a goal, but to know the exact way it will work is a not just a mistake, it can create a terrible work environment for those who see the mistakes and can’t fix them. You start with a general idea of where you want to go in development of web features, and great spec’s can make this possible, but there is a transformation that needs to occur between concept and final product, and that is where a lot of websites go awry by simply never fixing what needs to be fixed.

Information Discovery

Information discovery is all about looking through the data, which leads to idea discovery. But even before you go through reams of data, you need to figure out what you are trying to accomplish. This is a bit of a conundrum, like which came first the chicken or the egg. Let’s say you have a web page or a web site that is already doing its job. Your site could be a simple page or 2 or be as large as a 20,000 SKU online catalog. I’ve built both sites in the past. The question is how do you figure out that you need to add a form to collect information or to place ads on the site? How do you know if the site should be a marketplace or a straight e-commerce site. This is not just about data here. This is about business and business models. If you have worked on developing websites, and at this point in time, and a few million people have, based on the fact that millions own domains, you probably know a thing or 2 about making your own website.

In my first post on this subject, I described assets, where you have to look at few key pieces of information. Is there any anomalies showing a possible opportunity, or as Google in their web analytics product calls it, Intelligence? Is this site getting tremendous numbers of visitors? Is this site already collecting email addresses? One site I know of, because I am a part owner, gets an email address added to the system every 10 minutes during the day. This asset is important, because email addresses can be, should be used properly, by properly, I mean when people give you an email address, they are expecting an immediate response. The value of the email starts to go down when you wait 6 months till you email them. The fresher, the more valuable, and that’s because people have a small period of time to read that email you will send them. This has lead to the concept of email sequences. First time I had heard about this was from my business partner, who pointed out a company called InfusionSoft, that is big on it. It’s really a simple concept. You have a series of emails that get sent out to a person that signs up that go out in phases, like one a day, one a week, perhaps growing in length of time. Each email has a different message that is part of an overall strategy. You don’t need InfusionSoft to do this, but they are great at it.

Let The Wind Tell You Where To Go

Often data is telling you something. For instance, on Whois.net, we noticed a high amount of international visitors, yet we did not offer the ability to look up international domains. So we solved the customer’s quandry by offering what they were looking for. So one clue is looking at the key words people search on to get to your site in Google Analytics or Adobe’s/Omniture’s Site Catalyst. This is a simple task and 90% of online marketers know this. What they don’t look for is the missing link. The missing piece is what ties information to a new potential set of features. Another good example is on checkout of most registration sites, there is a term we now call “Co-registration”. Co-registration means the customer was here to signup for x, and you added another potential thing for them to get at the same time. We have considered using this in the event business website I am a partner in. Another interesting anomaly I noticed in the dating business recently, is that people are using Iphones and Android apps to signup, in significant numbers. This is where you have to brain-storm, not about features, but about assumptions. You can confirm these assumptions, through research. My assumption that people are using smartphones, specifically at work during the day, because it offers more privacy, and the employer can’t track you specifically. This is one of many reasons, but the end result is we need to have an app for the Iphone and Android… That is simple detective work. This is the big breakthrough. It is finding a new channel. The big question is having the resources to capitalize on this new channel. It may not be a new channel to you, but to a lot of executives out there, who don’t know how to deal with this channel, it is a strange new world.

In the retail side its called Cross-Sell or Up-Sell. Just sign-up for Godaddy and you will get your complete lesson on up-sell and cross-sell. They are the masters at this. I used to have people say that is not what I would put on the checkout, because it does lead to Friction, one of the key points in the MarketingExperiments.com formula, where it will actually causes less conversion potentially. This all depends on the site. On a dating site, yes, it can slow the process down, especially if the person is not ready to convert. On a retail site, however, when people have made up their minds to buy, only a broken, poorly designed web page can stop them, especially if the deal is an amazingly good value. So most features are figured out as extensions of what you already have in place. If you build on your success, you will succeed even more. There is no need to be radical, as you will find out the hard way…

Slash And Burn

If you let the status quo dictate what you do, or worse, let the current sales and marketing team make all the decisions, you could end up with a situation I call “slash and burn”. I came across the concept of slash and burn, while working on a few sites. The analogy of slash burn comes from the military tactic of burning the crops as you retreat, so your enemy will not have the luxury of food. It refers to the, sometimes unforeseen, consequences of making a decision to kill one part of a website in order to enhance another. This is a human decision process, typically driven by revenues. The best example was on this Whois.net site, where, when I arrived at this company, the previous people who managed it, had attempted to drive all the traffic through links on the site to hosting sales on another site, because that is where the money was for them. This was a major mistake in my mind. Yes, they had driven people to where they make money, but that is not why they came to Whois.net. They were there to look up domains that were available, find out who owns them, and potential buy them.

Consistency

Another very important point I learned from MarketingExperiments.com, and I will discuss them a lot here, is that consistency is real important in the process of building out web features. You have to start at the beginning of the customer path. The beginning is when they are sitting at their computer on Ipad. Let’s say they have not even turned it on. They are interested in South Florida Real Estate, as an example. They open the computer and type those words into Google. Google presents them with relevant results. Let’s say your site is in those results. When you click on one of the links, and let’s say its one of the top paid links, you are delivered to a web page. The words you put in should arrive right in your face at the top of the page in big bold letters. If not, you are not getting a consistent experience. This is true for many of the paid links, because they are using something called Long Tail, which has a few meanings. To me, it means extending the search words they are buying out to more obscure words, to pay less and get more traffic. This would typically mean they are looking to buy “Real Estate”, but it was cheaper to buy “South Florida Real Estate”. This is great for smaller sites and pages that are meant to be for finding this exact stuff, but when you arrive at a generic Real Estate Seminar, you are disappointed. This is not Google’s fault, it’s about people trying to get traffic, and the result is a lot of inconsistency. Your consistency is critical in making your site found well and sticky, a term these marketing guys love to use (meaning they stick around).

Don’t Make Me Think

If you have not read this book, “Don’t Make Me Think” and you work in the web field, you should get it, read it, and live by it. The book’s simplicity, and I will hopefully sum it up here, is that people have developed common methods of experience online. This means that they are expecting the same words, in the same spot, each time they arrive at a web page. A good example is the word “About” or the word “Search”. The book basically says if you say “Quick Search”, you are going to confuse people, and therefor making them think, like is really “Quick” or different. More importantly, if your site is missing any of these common elements, such as the words “About”, “Contact” or “Search”, there is a customer disconnect. And you need to understand that “Search” is a feature. So for the basics, you need to make sure the customer experience is not so different they run away. That also means that placing the word “Search” in the upper right of the page is preferential to let’s say the bottom left. From the web features perspective, deliver to customers at least the minimum they are expecting on the site. More and more, customers are expecting a web form on the home page and sometimes many site pages, where they can put their email address in, maybe with their first name or some additional data and get on that companies’ mailing list.

Short Form or The Long Form

One of questions is whether or not to put a short form or a long form onto a home page. So, inevitably with these kinds of web forms, information collection forms, you have techniques that are learned over time. You can learn this stuff by observing and taking the best of breed (they call it) and do things like this. One of the methods that is recommended is you ask for a small amount of information up front, like just an email address or email address with a first name. On the second page, you would then ask for additional information, saying that they are now on the list and they can further tell you more information about themselves. This two step process like everything, reduces friction on the first step and allows the website visitor to make intelligent choices on the second step. One thing I ran into when working for a hosting company was a situation where they required a domain name when buying hosting. This was a system requirement. It turned out to be a very costly financial requirement. The reason is, and like everything, it came down to how people react. The visitor, in many cases, had not decided on a domain name, so often they would just pick up and leave to figure it out…

This Web Feature discovery process article is 3 in a series of 3 so far. The articles about Web Feature Discovery will continue in a new article next month.

Web Feature Discovery Process – Part 2

This article is the second part of 2 articles on the Web Feature Discovery Process. You probably should click here and read article 1 if you are here for the first time.

Ok, so you have finally figured out the key assets and are starting to go down the road of making your new web feature happen… well let’s just say you are only 20% towards the finish line. There are some major hurdles involved for most of us, including even the big guy or gal at the top. The thinking part of discovering ripe juicy revenue or visitor producing features is the easy part. The difficult part is making it happen, navigating the human beings all along the way, especially when you know they are all trying to make sure you either fail directly, fail indirectly, fail just by the fact that you don’t have the energy to fight anymore, fail because you left the job or fail because the job left you. It is a fight to the death my friend and its all because you sorted through the company assets with a flashlight at night when nobody was looking and you had an idea, you brought it into the daylight, and now you are a pure unadulterated target for those who don’t want you to succeed. So how do you proceed in the most murky of environments…

Social Engineering

I first began to understand social engineering, when I was reading a great article about Kevin Mitnick, the infamous hacker who broke into Sprint and stole tons of information about their customers. He was not genius. He was not very technical. He was basically a petty thief. How did he do it? He used social engineering. If you think about it, social engineering (in the Mitnick version) is about figuring out how to use information and people of an organization to think what you want them to think and do, using that information wisely. Mitnick figured out that when executives names where mentioned, people lose their minds and do what you want. “Uh, Dick Lynch the VP said we need that report now!” Minick found out that if you know some small piece of information or just a name, you could easily navigate an entire organization, call around to people and they would hand you off like you were a friend. He would use person X’s name and say hey person Y, Person X recommended me. What really did is say the VP wanted me to get onto System Z, now so get me a login and password…

The point is, you need to understand the dynamics of the organization, the motivations of people in the organization and the hierarchy of decision-making. Getting the organization on board with you is what I am getting at! But ultimately, like I have said before, you can take the high road or the low road. Taking the high road means bring the organization along on a ride towards success (success means getting your feature implemented).

Education Camp

Sometimes unusual methods are needed in order to gain the trust of execs and the whole organization. For instance, some of the features I was trying to get implemented at my last company required me to make sure that the organization understood the features. What did I do about it? I ran a seminar. Now people in my company who came to my seminar looked at me in strange ways as I ran them. Once again who was I to run a seminar? I was just a programmer there, sometimes a manager, but in no way did I have the keys to the kingdom or really was in charge of much there. Fellow employees would look at me with confused looks. Who was this guy standing up there talking about things? I ran periodic internal seminars at the office. This means a short 45 minute talk, on WordPress for instance. I ran a seminar on Whois. I was planning a seminar on a variety of subjects. What was I doing in my crazy convoluted method was starting the social engineering process by planting seeds through my seminars. I wanted this company to adopt certain strategies and methods. Once again, nobody stopped me from running a talk at noon time in the conference rooms. This is a great place to flesh out your ideas and don’t freak if someone shows up to show you up. My answer to them would be, show me how to do it better!

Plan 32

One thing that a great product manager should always have is a pile of ready to go plans in their back pocket. You have all the plans (I mean PPTs, Power Points) that are company planned, on the so called “Road Map”. Actually I am going to digress here and tell you that if there is a Road Map beware! The kind of process and thinking a Road Map can create can be a real negative, because from experience nay-sayers love to use the Road Map as a way to block new Road Entrances. Never let the Road Map not allow the process to be re-prioritized and redeveloped. I have yet to see the Road Map (in the web feature world) be the best guide. Now, as far as plans are concerned, you have the top line plans already planned out from the execs and board. You have the plans that others know about that you are promoting, and you have a dozen others that they are not aware of, but you have them ready to go, in standby mode, in a file on your hard-drive or cloud, just in case the time is right. Why the three types of plans? Well, part of succeeding is not giving it all away too soon. You have to release plans periodically to the organization, who can’t handle all the plans at once. They have to be part of a series of changes over time. Once again, as a champion, of a lot of other people’s ideas (OPIs), you need to map out these features properly and get your presentations just right. Sometimes you have to sit on things and let osmosis occur. You wake up some morning and your brain somehow figures it out. Who knows why things work that way, but often they do. I would highly recommend sitting down with all the guys and gals who thought them up and show them where there idea is now!

The Shadow Government

Sometimes all the education and all the presentations and all the board room brawls are insignificant compared with the reality that something has to be done subversively. It is a rare thing to do, and there are some well documented cases where it is a necessity. A great example is the case of the James Cannavino at IBM. I read a great story about Jim in the late 1960s trying to convince management that he could speed up the IBM Mainframe. They rejected his notion, but in a subversive move, he had the technology developed outside the company and when it was finished went over his bosses and showed it to the board. He faced either being fired or being promoted. Luckily he was promoted. Hopefully it doesn’t come to this, but sometimes getting things done in an organization require unusual activity, because like I have been inferring there are many more forces at work trying to not make things happen than happen, even on the smallest scale.

Project Mercury

Those funny project names, that often mimic Nasa project names are not just wild imaginative words that are spread around at a company. They are used to get your attention, to try to get the organization to recognize a plan. These project names may sound strange and odd, but customer oriented, improved website features are often a shift and they may seem quite odd at first. Social networking stuff like Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook. These are now household names, but 10 years ago they would sound strange. And it is only going to get stranger. When I say Tweet, Joomla, Droopal, lamp or soap to people in the web world, they better know what I mean… What should be happening in most American web firms is an injection of militarization combined with humor and something to spice it up. That’s what a project name is all about. If project names are not attention-getters, they should be. I would always try to make the name relevant, but a good bit of creativity is a positive not a negative.

Misdirection And The Book Of 5 Rings

Talking about military tactics, people’s military training can go a long way in corporate America. Just because I was not in the army, doesn’t mean we can’t learn from military tactics. They are important. At the end of my MBA program I took a class which revolved around Musashi’s “The Book Of Five Rings“. Musashi is a Japanese expert on war in the middle ages who survived to his old age and therefor, because he was only one of the very few warriors to survive, he wrote about his tactics. One of the tactics listed is a method of drawing an enemy towards oneself and at the last minute let the enemy run themselves off a cliff. In our language we call it misdirection. Sometimes you have to lead people down a path and not stop them from their self destruction. Often your plan has one way of doing things and another person has their plan. If you see their plan is faulty you don’t always have to stop it from failing. Sometimes it is best to let it fail. When I worked back at the phone company we used to leave documents around about projects that were never in existence in order to confuse people about what our real intentions were. Sometimes it is important to not reveal these intentions until you are ready to present and make it happen.

This the second of a 3 part articles. I have not yet finished article 3 about Making the Web Feature Happen.

This is the first article (You should read them in order)

http://www.strategicpoints.com/2011/06/22/web-feature-discovery-process-part-1/

Web Feature Discovery Process – Part 1

Not that I am any bit an expert on web features, product management… and not that I know something that anybody else couldn’t figure out, but I am somewhat obsessed with the website “feature” development process, especially when it comes to overlooked, under-estimated, misused assets. This blog entry is about how I would go about discovering features and services and solutions towards increasing website traffic as well as finding new profitable directions and increasing conversion rates. I am going to give a few examples, mainly from my experience working on a site like Whois.net (which is far from maximized; as far as I know they have just started the process). But first, before I describe the process to develop these features and new products (aka, the old product management process in a new era), first we have to understand the lexicon of the web feature discovery process

Assets

Assets are virtual and sometimes physical things that an organization or company owns and manages. Examples are domain names, websites, email addresses, segmented email addresses, unique site visitors, pageviews, sms, twitter accounts, Facebook and LinkedIn, Persona of the visitors (how can we break up the kinds of visitors based on background), programs and applications, patents, copyrights and internal resources like people. Oh yes, even people are assets. These assets have a value and if you don’t put a value on these assets, you are making a mistake.

You need to start the web feature discovery process by working with asset value and not revenue, because while most everything in marketing is revenue based, the overall value of what you are building towards (ultimately revenue) may be determined by the value of the assets, and assets may ultimately determine long and even short term revenue. When I say assets, many technology and marketing execs would often give me a blank stare, like they have no clue what I am talking about. (I can only chalk this up to the fact that asset value is not how they are compensated, so don’t blame them, blame the boardroom for not keeping up with current valuation measures!) But what is going on in the start-up world, whatwe can call the modern world of business, is a whole new world of asset valuation. And if your division created a website worth $20 million that only made a net income of $100,000 a year, maybe it is time to sell it and take the profits…

The second thing to know about these virtual assets are the more detail you know, and the more they are optimized, the more valuable the assets are worth. We are in a world where websites, domain names and other assets are sold off to make some cash. So, don’t overlook asset creation vs. revenue creation. They now go hand in hand. 20 years ago you would think I’m a loony bird, but the world has changed and companies do sell stuff. At my last firm they did sell assets, except not after we maximized them, but after they personally devalued them.

Often a firm may be collecting email addresses. I say “may”, because some out of the way places don’t. Good luck to those outfits. If most organizations just knew 10 things about these email addresses, what people were interested in, or simple things like their first and last names or where they are located, the asset value of the list may be double or triple the value. Add more detail detail like age, demographics, what they like, who they like, etc and increase the value further.

How do you value these assets? My way of valuing them is simple. If you were to take them away and wanted to get them back, how much would it cost you? For instance, and I am often going to use Whois.net as an example, because that was the last large site I worked on. The Whois domain search site got about 2 million unique visits a month. Now the company saw no real value there because they had a hard time understanding the relationship to their sales, but when I asked execs how much would it cost you to buy 2 million visits a month by buying the PPC (Pay Per Click) words “Domain Name” and “Hosting”, it would have cost them a minimum $2 million dollars a month budget and therefor, just the traffic was worth $12 million a year or $36 million over 3 years. It’s a bit of fuzzy math, but going with “remove it and try to reacquire it”, is a great way to get them to understand. The reason most don’t understand is they typically don’t sell assets and are graded on revenue…but is that really what this is all about in the end… Because if you make something worth millions maybe the asset sales is bigger than any revenue you would ever be able to generate.

So start the process by doing an inventory of assets. First day on the job and you want to make a new web features happen at your web company, start by finding out the basics. What domains do we own? What websites do we run? What are total number of email addresses? How many visitors to each site? How many segments are we catching from customers in the email area? How many members? How many orders? How many skus? How Many? What? Where? Why and How? Get this information down on paper, because this information is the foundation for new and improved services.

Champion

Leaders, execs, people who have an idea, guys in the company basement, people on the customer service lines, MBAs with a business plan or just a lonely CEO with an idea are champions of web features. This means that somebody has to believe in it and want to make it happen. A group of people may want the features to happen, but a person has to ultimately answer and stand up and say I am the product champion. Groups don’t champion stuff, individuals do. This is one of the critical mistakes made by corporations, to think that a group of people will decide by committee ultimately what a web feature will do and how it goes is a big mistake. Not that web features are made by a dictator, and if the champion is a dictator, he probably will fail. If he is a benevolent dictator and listens well, it will succeed. Funny thing is this champion can not be limited to execs with great salaries and titles like VP, Director, CEO, CIO, CTO, BFD or Founder. A champion can and should be everybody. That is what makes companies succeed, not a special group who say only we do the thinking. It can and should by anyone, including employees, shareholders, customers, husbands & wives, sons & daughters, friends and the UPS man. Champions need support and guidance and promoters from above, below and sideways. Being a champion has its risks, as I’ve learned and you can get burned by being the champion or you can get the accolades and make it happen. You can even make it happen and not get the accolades, but then you would have known inside you made it happen. So it does not matter! Money comes later, first comes action!

Little Trees

Years ago we used to pay to plant trees in Israel. And then years later when I visited Israel I got a chance to see those trees grow. In order to grow a tree, a big tree, you have to plant seedlings or small trees. This is where many execs lose their patience and understanding of the product management process. You have to test, test and test again these little trees in order to find a big one. Ok, if you don’t get the tree allegory of ideas, you may be missing the point. Where do you find these little ideas? Somebody recently said, “Dan’s An Idea Guy!” That is not true. I am not an idea guy, I am a guy who listens and hears other people’s concepts and evolves them into ideas. There are ideas all around us, if we would take the time to just listen and sort through the data. Remember, the assets… Just doing an inventory will start to flesh out these little trees or concepts or ideas. One thing I always did at these companies is walk around and chat with the various people in the business. They have ideas. They know what may or may not work and though they don’t know how to implement, they do know something they are not telling everybody. Often its something in the business that bugged them for years that they want to share.

Sharing

Never thought the web feature discovery process would come down to sharing, but learning to share, something my 3 year old has not yet mastered, is the key way towards finding those little trees. People need to get together and chat and think and find answers. These answers are something somebody read somewhere. A company environment where people don’t share their thoughts is a place that will never flesh out new concepts or web features. Look at Google, they are actually asking for the ideas and look what they have produced. If we want the rest of corporate America to be successful on the web, they better listen up and start to share. Like I said earlier, it is the champion that takes an idea and makes sure it happens, not the product management guy or gal. The product management person should be the facilitator and not the creator in the end. Listen and learn, not ignore and complain. Sometimes doing your job requires less not more of giving and taking. Learn from your childhood and share. The secret to sharing is giving of oneself. If you can not give to others, by give I mean tell people something about yourself or your ideas, you will not be able to acquire ideas. The sharing has to start with you.

The Other Guys

Now this is the easiest way to find those things that people have not thought of and get the real brainstorm on what is happening in the market. You actually need to go off and look carefully at the competitors. This is not about mimicking people, this is about concept development. You see a feature on another competitor and you grab it. Fine, but you not only have to take it, you have to own it and therefor it needs to come from you in a new way. What I ended up doing for my Whois.net thesis, which you will read about in my other blog articles on Domain and Whois Tool searches. This meant locking myself up and reading through 500 websites. From this exercise alone I ended up with a dozen new products and features for the Whois.net site. No rocket science involved here. It is simply looking and learning.

Integrative Strategic Thinking (Aha Moments)

Once you have all this data in front of you, such as the assets, the new ideas from those around you, and the competitive information, you now start to see things from a different level. At this higher level, as you look holistically at information. You can start to piece together stuff you did not see originally in just the assets. For instance, when I looked through and discovered that Whois.net did not allow international domain name look-ups, I knew immediately this was an important issue. The importance was simple enough. If you increase upon (extend) what people already like, you will probably have success. They used to call it product extensions. This is where you take a product that is already successful and you add on a new feature or extend the product to new areas. Not a high risk activity. For Whois.net, international domain name traffic look-ups blew out the traffic, automatically doubling it in six months and it tripled and quadrupled traffic over a year. Just satisfying people with stuff they already wanted is easy. However, what is easy to do, is often not seen by the blind. And when you are busy in a high end corporate product management job, you are blinded by the requests from above and from the sides.

Stats and Prioritization

What did I do with the 500 websites I viewed in my these on Whois searches? I came up with a scientific approach to figure out what feature was important. Most of you who read this probably prioritize every day. I rated each feature by value (yes a monetary value), ease of implementation, where I found it, as well as the monetary value of the websites I reviewed. This review process was not about money, it was about assets again. What I focused on, was how do I get visitors to this site, not on how do I convert. I was leaving conversion and selling at this point up to marketing and sales. That was something they knew how to do pretty well. What you need to as a good champion is to understand the data beneath the hood and how to use this data to make a point. Prioritization and hitting low hanging fruit are extremely important ways of working as well. We are in an impatient world, where execs don’t have the time or energy to listen unless they are just seeing the cream of the crop. Maybe they shouldn’t know everything till the time is right. Sometimes companies kill a product or project the first time around because it failed. That does not mean the second time it will be the same.

Learn From Your Mistakes

Organizations that learn from their mistakes and take actions the second time around to make things right are rare. Most organizations bury a concept that has failed and when it is mentioned again by an newbie, the newbie is crushed with the notion that “this has failed here”. This is a big mistake. Failure should never be viewed as a doorway an organization can not go through again. It should, however, be the shining example of how not to do the same thing, the same way. Failure should be used as a way to understand what to do right next time. Like a pyramid, building upon their knowledge, great organizations store this learned mistake information and use it positively going forward.

Leapfrog

One of the concepts I learned while working on a well ignored site like Whois.net was if you are so far behind the competition, it is sometimes worth it, to not mimic, but rather take a leap of faith and go for something greater, different, in a way that competitors would never do. Why won’t they? The competitor has already made their product or web feature decision and taken the current path. If they are leaders in the market already, it will take a lot for them to change. This leap of faith may be something like give it away for free, or combine it with something new or offer something completely different or in a way that is easy to identify but not the same. Simply cookie cutter mimicking is a nuisance on the web. Who wants to go to Bing, when Google does it so well? Why would I ever do that, other than Microsoft has figured out a way to trap me when I load the next IE Browser? Now if Bing did something so different, so incredibly well done, it would make sense. If they were better on an Ipad, sure. If they were better with voice search, sure. If they were bettter or different…it would matter. Making it matter means being different not the same. In the case of Whois.net, I was determined to make the site a competitor with Sedo, the domain auction house, except my idea was to make it a free place to buy and sell domains. Sedo is not free. This is the kind of leap that makes a difference.

Hopefully this blog entry got you interested in discovering a new web feature… I will continue this blog entry in Part 2. Click Here to go to Web Feature Discovery Process – Part 2! And it turns out there will be a part 3, which I am currently working on.