Archive for the ‘continuous improvement’ Category

Video Delivery and Meeting Consumers More Than Half Way

March 13, 2008

While reading a post at Dan Miller’s blog, I began thinking about the changing models of entertainment delivery, and it occurred to me that Hollywood Video is going to go away because they weren’t able to respond to customers fast enough. They held onto the old model of entertainment delivery for too long and are being replaced by iTunes and Netflix. I am a Netflix subscriber and will soon be doing away with the subscription in favor of iTunes (as soon as iTunes gets more movies…). Netflix delivers physical DVDs with astounding efficiency, but I prefer immediate and cheaper. I have a Mac at home, and Netflix’s reaction to the iTunes download service only works with Windows. I will be a Netflix missed opportunity.

Companies need to meet consumers more than half way. Companies can no longer rely on the consumer coming to them any more. Interruptions are no longer needed. Why interrupt my life to go to a video store when I can download a movie? Interruption marketing is no longer a working model. Million dollar commercials don’t sell me — the opinions/comments of millions of people on Amazon and in various blogs do. This is permission marketing at its finest. You and your product must be ready for me when I need you to be. Not before, and (as in the case of Netflix and Hollywood Video) certainly not after.

Whether you run your own business or are working for someone else, the old model of selling and marketing will continue to produce diminishing results. Find, embrace and enhance a new model that puts the people to whom you hope to sell in control. Serve them well. Get them talking to their friends. Deliver something amazing, and they will handle 99% of your marketing for you.

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Measuring Greatness

March 7, 2008

In an earlier post, I gave an introduction to measures and how measuring the right things can lead you to success. In this post, I will detail some of Hinutech’s Key Performance Indicators and discuss what we are doing to improve or sustain.

Hinutech has two arms of business: web portal design/hosting and assisting customers with obtaining more business through driving traffic to their website. So, a key metric for us has to be web traffic.

As a relatively new company, it is essential for us to get the word out and ensure that we have a significant number of people checking us out on a daily basis. Some of these hits turn into sales while others turn into nothing. Each type of traffic is important to us because it informs us on the effectiveness of our marketing efforts. If only 3% of our overall traffic turns into a prospect, then we have a problem with our site and the message that we put forth. It is unreasonable to can expect 100% of our traffic to generate sales, so the sweet spot of effectiveness lies somewhere in between.

To get to this sweet spot, we have two key measures:
1. Total traffic. We try to grow traffic to our site by 5% a month. That means that we have 5% more opportunities to make impressions on potential customers. If we grow traffic by this much a month, we’re happy and wear party hats around the office. If we don’t, we analyze everything about our marketing plan and determine where we are going wrong or what we could be doing differently in our efforts. For example, one of our primary traffic generators is Google Adwords. We have a budget in which we work, and are constantly watching the effectiveness of our campaigns and tweaking words to ensure we are getting the most bang for our buck. If this traffic driver doesn’t contribute to our goal in a meaningful way, we have to reevaluate everything with our campaign.

2. Quality of traffic. Getting people to your site is one thing, but getting the right people there and getting them to take meaningful action is another. This speaks directly to Seth Godin’s rule of three for web traffic: Useful, Unique, Updated.

If people come to our site and find nothing of value, then we just wasted their time and an opportunity to deliver a solution to them. We might never get them back, so it is essential that the message we have on our site is useful for their needs. They have to be able to find what they are looking for quickly, and we have to have a clear message (FWIW, I am working on refining our message now. I don’t think we are as effective as we could be).

Unique: This should go without saying. You must have a unique offering and message. Visitors must get to your site and think that this is the best thing they have never thought of before. They need to send your link to their friends and co-workers to check out because there is nothing else on the web like it. There can’t be a million other you’s if you want to be the best in the world.

Updated: Site content must be continually refreshed and relevant. If you don’t have the commitment to keep your site updated, how can you expect customers to commit time, resources and money to you? Also, by keeping your site fresh, Google and Yahoo put more credence in your site. Finally, consistently working on your site to ensure that the message is fresh makes you continuously improve your marketing message. Nothing bad happens when you do this. Nothing.

We feel that if we watch these three areas, then our quality of hits will be higher. We measure the number of visitors that turn into prospects to determine the effectiveness of our site. We want this number to grow by 5% a month as well. We are yet to hit this number, and that tells me that 1, 2 or 3 of the 3 biggies noted above is out of whack.

These two measures are the biggest contributors to Hinutech’s success. I will discuss some of our others in a later post and will also report back on initiatives that we are taking to improve our progress with these two.

Recipe for Failure

March 3, 2008

From Seth Godin:

News flash: almost every time, the sure-fire recipe for success is actually a sure-fire recipe for disappointment. Almost every time, the products and services that succeed wildly are the ones that everyone expected would fail.

From me: Take a chance on failing. It might be the biggest success you’ve ever experienced. After a particularly bad day and very nasty mis-step that resulted in me bringing an entire company’s email system down, a very good friend said to me “Don’t worry about it. Those who don’t take chances never mess anything up. They never do anything.”

Moral of the story, the biggest successes stem from those who take extraordinary chances.

Introduction To Measures

February 19, 2008

In this post, Joel Spolsky speaks of the value of measures and in the value of transparency when dealing with customers. He talks about the concept of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and how they really are useless when work is approached from a mindset of continuous improvement. SLAs make us feel better because we can say that we had the goal of 99.99% uptime this month and we achieved that measurement. It would be easy to pat ourselves on the back and move on. I am interested, though, in what happened to cause us to not reach 100% and to ascertain if there is something that we could have done better. Is there something that we should have seen coming? Do we need another layer of redundancy? Did we see the outage coming and if so, were we able to notify customers in a timely manner? If we live only by measures, we never achieve a continuous improvement mindset.

Whenever something, anything, doesn’t have the outcome that we expected, we drill down and ask “Why?” 5 times. This allows us to continuously improve our business and our operations by ultimately allowing us to get to the root cause of the issue and put in a place a countermeasure that will prevent the issue from occurring again. We then add that measure to our list of items that we monitor on a monthly or weekly basis to ensure that we are moving in the right direction.

Unplanned, unexpected outages at Hinutech are abnormal events — black swans. We have built our infrastructure to ensure that we achieve the highest level of uptime possible with our budgetary constraints. As always, there are things that we can and should do better, and we will deal with them as needed while continuously improving our operations.

This is the first post of several as I seek to add clarity to the measurement process. In the next post, I will highlight some of Hinutech’s key measures and work through how we are improving on them daily.