Success is Easier when you Write it Down

Friends and family are always coming up to me asking for my opinions on their latest business idea or website and more and more I am starting to find myself giving the same advice time and again. Write it down! I don’t know for sure that your business is going to make a million or break the bank – but what I do know is that you won’t even get a bank account for the business if you don’t write it down – and filling in the forms these days to open a bank account is not as straightforward as it was 20 years ago I can tell you.

It dawned on me just how often I have been wanting to say this to people again and again when my wife and I broke open the Captain Morgan the other night. Rum and coke is a great drink for relaxing the tongue without giving it that sharp “just drank Gin, now beat me” attitude. As a drink we found it on honeymoon a decade back and it’s amazing our livers are still functioning to this day.

Anyway – my wife and I were drinking and she asked me for maybe the 50th time about her used items exchange idea for the local village. Or was it her “Mums back to work” recruitment agency? Anyway – I finally said “write it down” and however the conversation went on from there, I had to come back to the same advice as the only “next step” that was viable in the development process.

Even if you are a local plumber looking to have your own 5 page website, you still need to write it down. Going to a web designer and saying “please could you build a simple website, nice and cheap” already got twice as expensive as if you went along with a word document to the same guy and said “can you make a website out of this text”. It has to be your text in the end doesn’t it? So you are going to have to write it however much you pay. All I am saying is that you need to write your thoughts down, not just mull them over in the pub.

Well – oftentimes I am a disaster at listening to me own advice. But not this year. For better or worse, I have written down my business plan for my main business, and properly budgeted income and expenditure right down to the postage costs. Then I agreed the plan with my fellow directors and then summarized the objectives and delivered these to the entire team (15 people). Having written it down, we had much better boundaries for the annual review round and a clear idea of what needs to change to be able to meet our targets.

Writing a business plan – in the first instance at least – is not about WHAT you write as much as it is about THAT you write anything at all. 90% of business ideas fail right there. What – would it kill you to write the idea down on one sheet of paper? This blog post is more developed than 90% of business ideas. We have a one page business plan in the office, which is maintained and updated monthly – in addition to the more elaborate business plan. But if you are trying to get your business off the ground, here’s my 10 things you should write down before you even talk to a friend in a pub.

1. An advertising headline and tag line that explains and sells your product all in one go. Mastercard are calling Mastercard “the new change” encouraging micro-payments on cards these days. You know the product, you know the USP, you know that you don’t need to go to the cashpoint anymore to buy a sandwich from Tescos.

2. Write down a list of boring things you will need to arrange and very rough costs in money AND TIME. Here’s a few:

  • Bank Account: £nothing ….. 1/2 day
  • Legal trading name (LTD Company?) £50… 2 hours
  • Website domain and hosting space £10… 2 hours
  • A place to work from? A filing cabinet?
  • An accounts package?

Usually – the realization that you either need an accounts package or alternatively a VERY expensive accountant right at the start puts most people off right there.

3. SWOT analysis on your competitors. What – going to Google and finding out who they are will kill you?

4. A spreadsheet with cash-flow projections based on SALES NEEDED after costs are incurred, not “SALES EXPECTED” before costs are decided. Bank managers have given up looking at projections because they all start with “I will sell 2 more memberships every day ongoing, so I will break even in six months and be a millionaire in two years… just look at the figures”.

5. Write down some building blocks about how you are going to meet your sakes projections… Look at the sales funnel that you will need so you can get early warning signs if you are missing the target. I am looking for a certain level of new business each month for my main company. This equates to for new contracts a month, based on experience. To get this I need 12 opportunities assuming I convert one in three. Most leads are not going to even turn INTO opportunities, so to create 12 opportunities I need (say) 36 leads, or about two every working day. Now I can get these through the web, through network meetings, through conferences or through cold calling… (except I could never personally do cold calling) but the point is that for 4 new bits of business I need nearly 40 people saying “hmm… tell me more”. All of a sudden that first million looks a little harder to attain – or easier if that’s your thing.

Indextools vs Omniture

I am not saying that omniture is crap but I seem to be able to get Indextools to give me useful information whilst Omniture just gives me headaches. Where some people might say that Omniture has a steep learning curve I just call a difficult UI experience. My only wish now is that we don’t find Yahoo turning Indextools to crap.

There are two versions of Indextools – professional and Enterprise. Please don’t get me wrong – you need the Enterprise version to be able to compete with Omniture. But compete it does – and what seems to require consultancy help from Omniture just works on IndexTools with a few intelligent clicks and dragging a filtered report to a bookmark or a dashboard. It may be that I just don’t have access to administrator level of a full Omniture account… Actually – if I did – then Omniture are so scared of being properly compared that they don’t actually ALLOW their competitors to see omniture data. That’s pretty lame. If you have a world beating product, then you should show it off to anyone and everyone don’t you think?

Where things may differ is moving forward. Indextools did have plans for some very smart new ways of measuring lifetime values for visitors. I’m sure those ideas will have been part of Yahoo’s master plan, but the current “new face of Indextools” for the time being looks to be competing with Google Analytics, not with Omniture… but the real cool stuff is yet to come from Indextools. It may take a bit longer to arrive now, but hope, heavens to murgatroid, that Yahoo doesn’t ruin what partners of Indextools have seen in Indextools’ strengths for some time. Independence was one of those strengths… so given that we’ve lost that plank, let’s hope that the system doesn’t…

  • Grind to a halt under the new publicity (It’s already slowed a bit)
  • Get changed so that it cannot be used for deep analysis
  • Get changed in ways that compromise the ability for large companies to fulfill their dataprotection act obligations.
  • Get ad-funded (ugh!)
  • Break

I am all for change. The analytics industry still has a way to go before we can all agree on how to measure things properly. Please Please Please, Yahoo – keep the IndexTools system healthy and ad-free. In the meantime, I think that if you want an Indextools partner then at the moment you will need to work with one tha believed in IndexTools before Yahoo bought them out. My guess is that this is going to be the only way to get a decent enterprise account at this time.

Adwords Trademark Bidding Policy Relaxed in the UK

Adwords trademark bidding has been possible in the US for a while, but will remain impossible in most of Europe after the 5th of May. In the UK and Ireland, though, Google have found a way to make you pay more for your own traffic in the future.

Yes – it’s true. From the 5th of May, on Adwords, you will be allowed to bid on a competitor’s trademarked keyword in the UK and Ireland. Be careful you don’t get sued by the trademark owners if you try.

Adwords trademark bidding has been possible in the US for a while, but will remain impossible in most of Europe after the 5th of May.

When the news came through to the office that this change was going to take place, a very interesting discussion developed as to whether it we should be advising our clients or whether they should be advising us on how this might affect their on PPC strategy. My instinct was to tell all our clients the facts and then ask our clients to consider how they wanted to deal with 1. people bidding on their trademarked word and 2. them using competitor trademarks as keywords. I thought I had written an article that did this quite well, but two of my team pulled me up on in, saying that we should not be giving out legal advice to our clients on IP and trademark law. Clearly whatever I had written had not struck the intended tone, because perception is reality and the reality is that if my team felt I was saying “bidding on a competitor’s trademark is fine and dandy” then I was clearly advocating something that was not always a safe bet! I think we’ll settle on fixing the typos and putting a disclaimer on the article when it comes out, but it got meto thinking. If we had not put out the article at all and kept our clients in the dark about this change in Google’s Adwords policies in the UK and Ireland, I wonder how many calls we would have received in mid May when clients suddenly see their competitors advertising when users type in our clients’ trademarked word? That will be the call, as the MD gets all hot and bothered doing his vanity checks. The actual COST though, is much more sinister. We have many clients that bid on their own trademark. We recommend it even when they are number 1 because it gives you twice as much exposure on the serps above the fold and knocks some other website below the fold. the cost is minimal. We have a client on a near six figure monthly spend and brand is by far the biggest converter. The brand keyword costs about £20 a day… £600 a month out of a near six figure monthly spend. Peanuts in other words. That is because nobody else can bid on the trademark (hell… most competitors can’t even spell the trademark) the quality score and relevency is through the roof, putting the CPC through the floor. But what happens when competitors start to bid on the term? Obviously they will be at a disdvantage, because they cannot say the same things as the trademark owner and cannot be seen to be passing off. But they CAN disrupt the low quality score on the advert. If the CPC goes from 2 pence per click to 20 pence per click, a trademark owner suddenly finds themselves paying a 900% increase in costs for the very same traffic that they had before ay 5th.

As consultants, don’t we also have a duty of care to forewarn our clients about this possibility? Our clients, then, have a duty of care to their shareholders to give us the best advice to us as consultants as to how we handle this new front on PPC advertising campaign management. But if anyone gets lawyers in to stop us all reaching a concensus, then the only winners will be the lawyers.

Dixon (I am NOT a lawyer) Jones.