7Billion people, Peak Oil, C02 Recapture and Global Markets

My 9 year old budding environmentalist asked over dinner the other night if it was possible to keep the earth cool. It appears that this has been a topic of learning in her 4th grade “weather” module.

What ensued was an interesting discussion between me, the “marketing guy,” my wife the Environmental Scientist by training and trade, and my daughter on what could happen. And oh yeah, we had to talk in terms that a 9 year old (and my 7 year old son) could understand.

What kicked off the conversation is this fascinating article in Fortune Magazine about CO2 recapture technology. My daughter had liked the picture of the big “fans” in the middle of the plains and read a few paragraphs of the article.

This was a new one for me as well. The concept of pulling CO2 out of the air at any kind of scale was something I hadn’t heard of.

We also learned this month that the world’s populate topped 7 Billion people. When I was my daughter’s age, 4 Billion people seemed like a lot, and the concept of “doubling in my lifetime was far too abstract and seemed catastrophic.  How would we feed all of these people? How would we deal with the overcrowding?

The same way we always have, a little bit a time. Slow, incremental changes give us time to adapt. The oceans are not going to rise 2 feet overnight. The population isn’t going to double overnight. Oil isn’t going to stop being produced overnight.

So what did I tell my daughter? I told her that despite the meltdown of 2008, I believe in global markets. At some point oil will be too expensive and alternative energies will become worth it.  Then, market forces will take over. The same with rising oceans, and the same with rising populations. What seems too abstract (7  Billion people?!) will become real as will the solutions, there will be too much at stake.

The idea that you could use recaptured CO2 to grow enough Algae to meet our energy needs in a completely renewable lifecycle is one of those abstract ideas. But as the technology evolves, and the price dynamics of oil change around, the early research being done today might pay off. Only time will tell.

Even if it’s already too late to have a real impact on global warming. Even if Peak Oil has in fact come and gone. Even if we can’t possibly see how we will ever feed 7 or 8 billion people. Because, even with all of that, I believe in the power of Markets and the resiliency of the human race.

And in the end, do we really have a choice?

Time for Marketers to Get Smart About Pipeline (Again!)

Peter Burris of Forrester Research just posted an interesting bit of research about how marketers need to do a better job of connecting how marketing activity translates into pipeline. If you have Forrester access you can read the document here.

Here are a couple of the main points from their study:

  • Marketing is the source of 27% of the pipeline on average
  • Size of company doesn’t appear to have a big impact on the average
  • Services companies are closer to 20% of the pipeline
  • 75% do some “qualification” of leads, but most are not yet systematically “nurturing”

What’s new here is the updated data from Forrester’s own research of around 140 tech marketing folks across both services and software companies of all sizes. But is it really shocking that only 27% of leads are marketing sourced? In some ways, I am more surprised that it’s that high.

This leads to a number of follow on questions for me. What is the “right” number after all?  Or, what is the expectation of the business on what marketing should deliver? Or what does the sales side think of that 27% number, and the quality of those leads?

I have considered the following variables when measuring pipeline contribution:

  • Overall Pipeline Contribution: I have personally used 25% minimum as a rough guide, 40% as a goal.
  • Return on demand gen spending: 10x is the trendy figure for software companies based on contribution margin. So for every $1 spent on demand gen programs (taking out awareness activities) I want to generate $10 in revenue.
  • Pipeline Velocity: The speed at which marketing leads moving through the pipeline, and how long a marketing lead needs to be nurtured before it becomes viable.
  • Stage Management: While revenue is the ultimate measure, how far marketing leads make it through the pipeline is an important gauge of lead quality.
  • Efficient use of Capital: If cold calling efforts generate opportunities at a cost of $300 per opportunity, my marketing activities need to either improve that $300, or be less expensive to ensure the best use of capital.

To me, percent of pipeline is interesting and certainly screams value, but it is only one of the critical success factors. For instance one of my teams was able to contribute 60% of the opportunities in pipeline at a services company. But in reality those were smaller deals that took a long time to close and created a distraction for the sales team, reducing their ability to source new, high value deals from their networks. Understanding the full picture allowed us to recalibrate our strategy.

In addition the scale of the opportunity matters. If your $500,000 marketing program generates the required 10x return of $5M in revenue for a $1B company, don’t expect the senior execs to shower you with affection. At the company party they will just sort of nod their head and be happy you aren’t wasting their money. Then they will go chase down the hot new sales person who has a $20M quota and be sure that salesperson has everything they need to be successful.

The point is, the percentages matter, of course.  But what really matters is being able to show an effective contribution to the businesses overall goals. Understanding capital efficiencies, and a deep understanding of how to connect activity to what matters to the business are the metrics that matter most in your organization.

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Is “Some Form of American” Really a New Language?

I overheard the following in the parking lot after dropping off my kids at school this morning.

One woman was telling a few others about what her son, who was clearly in the military, was currently up to. She said: “he is taking language studies classes. I don’t really want to know what language he is learning, I just hope it’s some form of American.”

What?!!

I mean seriously. WHAT?!!

I have written before about the fact that you can’t “speak European” as it relates to marketing in Europe. Just because it’s sort of a governing unit around the EU, languages that have been around for millenniums don’t just go away as a result.  But the this was a new one for me.

Just what does “Some form of American” even mean?! I live in Boston, is our remarkable ability to forget to use the letter “R” a dialect of American? (BTW, we don’t use turn signals either, but that is a different post!)  Is there a new language being created in the south that we northerners need to learn? My kids are fortunate to go to a school that is represented by a true “salad bowl” of cultures from Indian, to Chinese, to Hispanic, to Greek, to Italian and on and on.  Are their classmates native tongues now some form of American too?

I really was stunned, and in fact, I still am.

In this day and age when companies routinely translate their products into 100 plus languages, when Facebook supports countless languages across its 500+million users, when Google Translate can instantly make pages in 60+ languages readable, and when you can tweet what you had for breakfast in 6 languages today, probably 100 by tomorrow, do we really need to figure out how to speak American too?

For me, I take this as a reminder that I have been blessed to live and work in a global world. I have had the chance to experience many different cultures first-hand and learned to understand how cultural nuance plays a significant role in both communication and in understanding.  Not everyone is so lucky.

Clearly.

International SEO Requires Planning and Discipline

Some time ago at my prior company I wrote about the challenge with Global SEO. Namely, how best to translate the key terms that your users search on to find your web site.  Things really haven’t advanced significantly since then.

However this article from ChiefMarketer.com shows its more valuable than ever.  In it there are some good updated statistics on the value of global search and search engine diversity.

But to truly take advantage of the local opportunity, first make sure your site is visible to the local Google/Search Engines in the countries you operate in.  The easiest way to do this is to be sure that the XML site map that you submit to the Search Engines contains links to your local sites, otherwise you are likely dark. At my prior company we fought with this issue for months, and were stunned at the simplicity of the answer once we stumbled on it.

Once you are showing up, you need to think about what the right terms are in local language. There are numerous examples of how a straight translation of your key English terms misses the market completely in local language.  Unfortunately a key word research tool isn’t necessarily going to tell you that answer. Ideally, you would use the glossary you built in the translation process as the starting point. Then work with your in-country team to validate the “adjacent terms.” These are the local idioms that would be the more popular, and more likely, terms for your buyer to search on. Its hard work, but skip this step at your own peril.

And if you are launching a PPC program in local language, make sure you have completely rebuilt your ad copy in-language. Translating English is going to be practically useless, particularly when considering the character limits of each row.

The good news is if you put the time in up-front, you will immediately see measureable results both in terms of increases in traffic to your site, as well as conversions and revenue.

 

 

 

Is “One Hour Translations” a Game Changer for Global Marketing?

I am fascinated with this interview with the CEO of One Hour Translation on the Global by Design blog. And not just because of our American fixation on speed– Think “1 hour Dry Cleaning” or “10 minute oil changes”, or Pizza that is “delivered in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.”

No, I am fascinated because localization is really hard work, and this company threatens to make it easy. Particularly for the marketing organization at a mid-sized company, this really has the potential to be a game-changer. Here’s why.

I have my own experiences with the translation process both from inside and outside the industry.  I have written about some of them here in this blog. And some of the whitepapers I wrote on the subject live on in my former company’s whitepaper archive. I can summarize the challenges for a global marketing team thusly:

  1. It takes time: Sucking content out of whatever systems you use, getting it out to translation, reviewed, pushed back into your systems, reviewed and published… All adds up, it’s painful
  2. Volume rules, and you don’t have a lot of it. Localization is a volume game, and on the marketing side, volumes can often be low, but the amount of work feels the same if the job is 10,000 words or a million words.
  3. There is never enough budget: You budget $10k, it will cost $15k. If you budget is $15k, it will cost $20k. And the corollary to rule #3 is…
  4. The countries don’t want to pay for it: It’s amazing. When the “bill comes due,” often a team materializes out of thin air to handle the translation in-house. It’s one of those things that falls rapidly out of the budget cycle when the details become real.

What the promise of One Hour Translation does is to streamline the whole process for you. (Full disclosure, I have never used the service so I have no idea if their quality is any good, if their TM process works as advertised etc.) Instead of having to negotiate every job, have a file analyzed for the number of words, check for matches against the TM database, manage the glossary, deal with a project manager as the go-between to the faceless translator, it’s all right there for you. A flat 7 cents a word, send off the job, and back it comes. Interact directly with the translator if needed, adjust quality on the fly. Poof, “so easy a caveman could do it,” with or without an “Easy Button.” And for a marketing team that is rolling out slowly in a few countries, or has just a periodic volume of work, this model will be very attractive.

There are surely a number of problems with this as well, starting with the languages supported, the inability to build a true glossary, reuse, translation memory, and scalability, to say nothing of the costs. But if you are sophisticated enough to manage those things individually, or have such a high volume of content that scalability is a concern, well you are not going to be using this service plain and simple.

For the rest of us, it will be a development worth keeping a close eye on.

 

Is It After US Labor Day Already?!

It always catches me off guard.  Labor Day in the US is celebrated the first Monday of September, and it signals the clear end of summer. And when you work with global teams, everyone is back from the summer holidays and ready to work as well.

Compounding matters, it also coincides with almost the end of the 3rd quarter if your fiscal year matches up with the calendar yea. And it’s make or break time on driving business in the current year. And you have to start planning for the next year, and, and, and, and!

Personally this year I took an unexpected vacation the week before. One of those, the calendar gods aligned and the weather in Boston was brutal so why not head out of town, NOW vacations. And one of my key marketing directors also resigned at the same time.  Talk about the perfect storm!!

But what does that extended whine have to do with marketing globally? I also use this time to reflect on what worked in 2010 as we think about closing out the year and planning for next year. I started out the year by saying that our operative model was to Focus Focus Focus. You can read my take on the strategy in this post.

In this area, we wound up doing a decent job, but still took on more than we could realistically manage so things were not as connected as we would have liked.  Our Cloud event series was highly successful overall, but each event felt like a discrete event, rather than an ongoing program. We are working on using the LinkedIN Cloud group we created as the glue, but it takes time to build that community and have it truly bear fruit.

The other thing that is clear is that our true target audience is really hard to reach through traditional channels. We do the webinars, events, telesales etc, but we have to consider the target “yield” against the actual attendees for everything we do.  Improving that will surely be a major focus for 2011.

Another area that went well in 2010 was opening up the UK market. But now we have to replicate that success in two other countries in 2011, and that will prove difficult when accounting for language alone.

But really when we take stock of 2010, it was a good foundation year, but success will be measured by what happens in the next 2 months. As for now, I have to run, one of my sales directors just sent me an IM titled “need more leads!”

Washcloths, Shower Curtains, and Irons

What do those three things have in common?  Three things you probably won’t find in your hotel room outside of the United States.

I have the good fortune to travel outside of the US on a relatively frequent basis for work.  And for some reason I just can’t get over these three things not being in my room. I am currently in Tel Aviv and staying in a nice boutique hotel. Where is the iron? On the 5th floor.

The good news is I have learned to look for it, so I ironed my shirts at night when no-one else was using it.  But seriously, are Americans the only people who iron their shirts when travelling?  Do people outside the US have a secret formula for not wrinkling their clothes when travelling? (Yes, I already do the plastic thing). Is anybody else bothered by this?

And while I am on a rant, what’s up with the 4 inch piece of glass that acts as a shower curtain?  I am 6 feet 4 inches tall. When I stand in the shower, water is flying everywhere. Would it kill you to put up a curtain, or a bigger piece of glass?

And don’t get me started about the lack of a washcloth for washing my face after shaving!

But you know, I am sure that folks coming to the U.S. are amazed at our decadence, our incessant need to iron our clothes and the ridiculousness of our massive (and dirty!) plastic shower curtains.

In the end, I learn to cope, and chalk it up to one of the “interesting” things I get to experience when travelling around. What do you find different when you travel? I am interested to hear your experiences. Email or comment!

@ajdun