Archive for June, 2007

How to destroy competitors’ business model. Web 2.0 style. Part 4 of 7

A Small Company is Best

  • Rapid response
  • No corporate zombies
  • Outsource – whatever/whenever
  • Focus, focus, focus
  • Modules, not monoliths

Rapid response means that you are quicker and more agile than your competitors. This allows for rapid adaption to market and technology shifts. Fast movers can ramp up and scale down immediately. You can be known for quick roll-outs and being quick to adapt new ideas, techniques to roll over the older competitors. With a small team you minimize any costs of learning as everyone learns together. The American railroads were never so aggressive and competitive as when they had their offices in railcars at the frontier where rails were being laid. Being small means that you can maximize monetizing opportunities since you can get there quickly and test them.

No corporate zombies because the Team is engaged in the process and progress of the company, all the time, for everything. The Team wants to do “good works” not just work. The Team believes that they can make a difference in the world while doing what they love.

Outsource whatever you can (and the options improve everyday). SEO and translation outsourcing is a low risk, low cost, no brainer. You can tap into rock star individuals for world class code, wihout forcing them to become “employees” which is something these brilliant individuals often want to avoid. Being totally virtual allows employees to work anywhere.. anytime.. any country. We use the world is flat as a our competitive edge.

Focus, focus, focus. You need emotional focus (are you loving what you do? Change it to work!) The technical focus employed allows you to always look ahead, behind and beside for improvements. Fiscal focus ensures that for all the edgy techniques employed the back ground decisions are very sound. Plan, execute and learn focus to ensure that every change meets the need to be faster, simpler and cheaper for the company to execute. End game focus keeps all the players on the same page, world domination one member at a time.

Modules, not monoliths. Do whatever you must to prevent the forming of information silos. We are all part of one team, not sets of teams. Coders have say in marketing and UI and sales has a say in coding. Put all your commonalities in the back end and deal with regionalization in the front end.

Next: The Gold is in the Rest of the World

How to destroy competitors’ business model. Web 2.0 style. Part 3 of 7

Build a Strong Infrastructure- Design for scale.The Web 2.0 landscape is littered with promising apps that crashed and burned due to an inability to keep up with masses of user generated content and traffic. Do not be cheap at the start and build a so so infrastructure. Else you will constantly be fighting the infrastructure as you grow. And you will have no time! Good infrastructure takes up front time, a lot of time to research, source, test, configure and improving as you grow. We follow these ideas:

  • Remove possible limits at design stage
  • Access best practices
  • Modular means flexible
  • Support the team

Remove possible limits at design stage

Ensure that you can support and add languages easily. Choose the right platform, an OS that is meant for enterprise solutions. Open source all the way. Design for unlimited growth with plug-in components for scale. Its better for the company in so many ways to scale horizontally vs.vertically. In your design think ahead about support needs and the cost. You will never lose today by designing for an extremely fast site, the audience wants instant gratification. Fight any type of technology lock-in as it will cause you grief further along. By choosing open source you will reduce all costs while enjoying rapid improvements from people not on your payroll. To do this you need to stay current and attentive.

Incorporate best practices

Monitor the space to be aware of daily alerts of innovations. The infrastructure folks need to be sponges for news and views in their space. Learn from the winners in the space, they are very open to sharing their techniques. E.g. if you ask Google a tough technical question, they are very quick to come back with a fix or response. Learn from losers as to what caused their ship to crash. There are lots of on-line interviews with these folks. Learn from also-rans as you can see them not grow as fast and stall due to many issues, some of them infrastructure related. Encourage the team to have rapid trials. Failure is a failure to try. A heavily traffic site is also a very heavily searched site, to win it needs to be the best database company as well.  Ensure you have no single point of failure, things are always doubled up. No machine should share anything from another machine i.e. “Nothing Shared”

Modular design wins
Front end modules are used in the areas that need regular cosmetic changes. That is language, form factor, look and feel (skin). You need to be able to quickly roll out unique looking and branded regional sites as well as demographic sites. It is possible to create sites that are correct to the dialect level.
Back end modules are used where the standard heavy weapons are stored. These parts are designed to be easy to update, but no need for any rip and replace. They serve all your front end modules. We are talking open source database, business intelligence, market intelligence, location intelligence, search intelligence, load balancing intelligence tools and add-ons.

Support the team
You can not fight the technology as you grow. You encourage and push for rapid trial of new features and add-ons. The development team uses targeted live trial areas for daily tweaks (just like Amazon). Tested apps are rolled out immediately and regularly. Change is constant. All changes have an easy roll back capacity.

Next. Small is Best

How to destroy competitors’ business model. Web 2.0 style. Part 2 of 7

How to destroy competitors’ business model. Web 2.0 style. Part 2.

Build a great development team

  • Work on the leading edge
  • Attract more like us
  • Be passionate
  • Multiple language culture
  • Everybody contributes

Work on the leading edge.

Coders love to work with really cool, leading edge technologies. Often you will find that the best coders (rockstar quality) will find you because they hear what you are about. Web applications today have some exceptional tools available. Our team built their applications using the following and more.

AGILE development (it rocks), Ruby on Rails, (with boundless stored procedure libraries), Python turbogear, Ajax (Google loves it), Ferret for indexing,  CronJobs for cleanup, Business Intelligence tools (Analytics, dashboards), data migration tools (take out the drudge work), distributed databases when needed, and dynamic load balancing (no latency), pretty well the whole open source bag of tricks. It also helps to have a really cool funky physical environment All these reduce coder workload while increasing speed. stability, reliability and productivity.

Attract more like us

Employees will recruit others who share similar goals. That is how rock star employees come to us. Good employees help us set company culture early (learned this from Jeff Bezos, Amazon). The result of these policies is very reduced churn and reduced hiring costs. The company wins in so many ways.

Be passionate

If you love your work – it becomes better work. As a result employee productivity grows to a high level. On the wall is a slogan Corporate zombies need not apply.

Multi-language culture, be international from Day 1

Our company has Japanese, Chinese,French, Spanish and Eastern European members. More team members are located in Asia and Europe. Canada is a multicultural country, so use it to advantage. Learn from the similarities and differences and apply them to the localized sites. Coders have a say in marketing, since they know the buyers!

Everyone Contributes

Build a team whose depth of experience spans many years to give balance and focus to efforts. The business leader has already taken one company to very strong financial exit, so he is well aware of what to focus on. The technical leader ran 78 simultaneous multi-language highly secure websites so has been there, done that. By employing individuals with rare deep core technology experience and drive, the company is saved from making others mistakes, but can learn from all the lessons already out there. This allows a greater chance to be fast second in a market to scoop up all the marbles when the leader crashes and burns. Internal policy is to try everything, there is something to be learned from what works and what does not.

Next. Build a Strong Infrastructure

How to destroy competitors’ business model. Web 2.0 style. Part 1

How to destroy competitors’ business model. Web 2.0 style. Part 1 of seven parts detailing the themes behind a rapidly encroaching competitor using Web 2.0 techniques

Don’t Spin Your Own Fan

  • aGet others to do it
  • Remove potential limits to growth

Get Others to do the work

  1. Build? Not when you have open source, where you borrow before you buy.
    In building web applications, the lowest cost thing is to get code. Plus you never build it all yourself. Use open source libraries as well as the plethora of scripts and small applets that are being posted daily. Then your team builds up their aps based on the best work that is out there. The developers community will tell you about the best and where it is being used. In this case we are using code developed and used in Europe, the US and Asia on monster traffic sites. The community acts also as a trouble shooting resource . You are not alone.
  2. Reverse auction for contractors
    There are numerous international sites out there where you post your need for some specific application . Coders bid in a reverse auction process where they compete with each other to do it better for less. You pay nothing until it is delivered and works.
  3. Allow users to create and police content. Competitors need to vet their online content for ensure it is appropriate. We do much less as our community has a sense of ownership and self-polices content more and more each day. You pay nothing for this. Good user generated content pours in at very low cost
  4. Affiliate sites and worldwide partners pay you to be on the site, and you have no upfront cost to bring them on. Its all about access to our exclusive demographic
  5. Advertisers (today Google) pay us to display their messages. Initially you spend nothing to get these ads. As the site grows, you can increase our share of revenue by finding and placing your own advertisers on the site.

Remove limits to growth by employing the following design criteria in rank order:

  1. Build an extremely fast site for high load levels, the target audience wants instant gratification
  2. Multilanguage design from Day 1 (do not forget this).
  3. All future sites share the same back end design. We can build and grow sites faster and cheaper than going out to buy membership sites in an overheated market. The targets do shift to the site that has the most value to them.
  4. Unlimited Scale – Not 1.0 solution.
  5. This is an open site , not closed by subscriptions , which reduces the need for paid content administration.
  6. SEO/translation services are outsourced to wherever, no direct employees. The low price locale for this work shifts, today perhaps it is Argentina.
  7. Use modular technology layers to allow any new UI/device to attach whenever it becomes available.
  8. The first site is one brand, as a new demographic is identified, build a a new brand, this ensures no brand dilution fighting brand extension at the source.
  9. Market growth is phased. User feedback drives rapid development
  10. The site shifts as target shifts. Deploy a new site look in weeks, not years
  11. Develop in days what others used to do in month. Develop in weeks what others do in years

As a result of these criteria you can build an application with unlimited growth upside while driving costs down daily
This allows you to dramatically reduce site costs today and in future. Smart people can do this. Mediocre ones need not apply.

Next: Building a Great DevelopmentTeam.

How to destroy a competitors business model. Web 2.0 style. in seven parts

Setting up the series

I am working undercover these days with a company that since launching last October, now seriously threatens the business model of their competitors. As an example, one competitor is a top player and highly profitable in their space which is a subscription based traditional technology website, I will call this player, Old School (Old). My client is a free site, all advertising based, built with Web 2.0 plus technology and attitudes, I will call them New School (NS). Today, NS now provides more services, in more languages, to a faster growing audience than Old.

A simple example. Old has not changed their website in 8 years and has taken 1 year to implement a new mobile feature. NS changes their “skin” every three months and implemented a mobile solution in 8 days. So how does NS do it? In this series I will give you seven core themes that drive the team at NS. One final bit, the team at NS are very seasoned web veterans coming out of other successful ventures, so these themes come from lessons learned and applied.

The series titles will be

  1. Don’t Spin Your Own Fan
  2. Great Development
  3. Strong Infrastructure & Design
  4. Small is Best
  5. The Gold is in the Rest of the World
  6. Company purpose is Community Purpose
  7. Valuation Depends on What You’re Buying

I hope you enjoy this. I know I am having a ball.

The New Rules of Marketing and PR. How to use news releases, blogs, podcasting, viral marekting & online media to reach buyers directly. Davdi Meerman Scott.

The New Rules of Marketing and PR. How to use news releases, blogs, pod-casting, viral marketing & on-line media to reach buyers directly. David Meerman Scott. 2007. ISBN9780470113455. This book could change your approach to the web. After devouring this book it has a record number of post it notes attached to pages. The “new style ” of writing books first in a blog and then into print is starting to generate more books like this one, chock full of very useful information and methods, vs academic tomes with thoughtful but less tested ideas. So many great ideas in this book, but one that comes up early is that Press Releases are read as much by buyers than any other group out there, due to search engine retrieval long after the release is out there. So you need to write your releases as much for your buyers as to media, and make sure they are always posted on your site media centre. This reinforces the need for all your web content to talk to buyers in their words about their issues, not how great your company or product is. One more reinforcement of the core research findings behind our Precision Sales and Marketing approach. A library keeper, but a working book, not just a reference.

The Innovative Leader. How to inspire your team and drive creativity. Paul Sloane.

The Innovative Leader. How to inspire your team and drive creativity. Paul Sloane. ISBN 0749450010. I love books full of things that work! If you wanted one book to encapsulate creativity and innovation pick this one. My bookshelf is full of most of the books Sloane references, but he compresses it down to “just what you need”. My best takeaway was the 26 ways to generate new ideas. I especially like the “Who killed our business exercise.” Clearly written, easy to read, succinct and oh so useful. If you are CEO in a fast moving industry, with youthful, brilliant people around you, this is a book you must read and use.

The Jelly Effect. How to make your communication stick. Andy Bounds.

The Jelly Effect. How to make your communication stick. Andy Bounds. ISBN 9781841127606. 2007. The Jelly effect is a Bound’s apt description of what most presentations reduce the recipient to, jelly! What a dynamite combination of talents, a communicator/presenter who is also a clear writer. This is a must buy for your summer reading. Easy to read, brilliantly laid out and above all full of stuff that works! My top takeaway, stop telling your prospects about what you will do for them, tell them how their company will be like AFTER you help them. Paint the picture of what others were able to do AFTER working with you. Brilliant and succinct, this is one of the most useful sales and marketing books you can get today. He covers networking, sales, referrals, and presentations and wastes no words. A library keeper.