Monday, September 29, 2008

A Quick Blog Update

I know it's been a while since I've posted. I've been working on a couple of posts, but I haven't finalized them. I've also been actively working on a integration project, integrating with Oracle 11i.

One thing that I wanted to call your attention to -- I first saw this post by Eric Schonfeld on Techcrunch -- The State of the Blogosphere 2008 on Technorati. If you want the full report, go to Technorati. If you want a great summary of the report, including some handy graphs and the always valuable comment section, check out the Techcrunch post.

I'm also working on a post on Whole Foods Markets. I've seen a number of things in the press about them and how they are dealing with changing economic times and a decline in their customer base. I'm part of their declining customer base and, while they probably don't want to market to my demographic, I want to chime in on some of the places where our relationship went south... but that'll be left for an upcoming post -- maybe this weekend.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Looking for a New Marketing Job - Part 2

This post is part 2 of a look at how to find a new marketing job in a company that doesn't do marketing. In prepping several of drafts of this post, I starting down a path of strategy mapping, but the topic thread seemed overly broad and preachy. Instead, I've decided to take more of a tactical focus, listing a few techniques that I know some people have had success with.

Some techniques to help you get the new marketing job that you're looking for:

1. Resume Search Engine Optimization -- if there is a type of job that you're looking for, then your resume better include the keywords associated with that job in it. Keep in mind that when you're optimizing for search, you need to think in terms of how the person on the other end would search in order to show up. But more importantly, if you're looking for a specific type of job -- knowing what you know about the HR screening process -- you probably need the title of that job in your resume. How you stick it in there is an interesting challenge -- particularly if the role appears to be a tangent from your current resume. Like search engine marketing, if you take a user to a page that doesn't match their search, you're going to have a high bounce rate, and that has the potential to impact you across the category. In that way, if you think of resumes like web pages, assume that a recruiter is like a human version of the Google page rank algorithm -- tricks that elevate your rank today have the potential to crush your rank in the future -- focus on good content.

Of course, the challenge with this is that good content for search engines is not always good writing and design for people -- and many people haven't caught up to this yet. It's entirely likely that the things that will help a recruiter find your resume are also the things that will make them reject you when they look at it -- search engine optimized resumes don't necessarily match "traditional resume style". Let me know if you've come up with some good strategies for this.

2. Respond to job postings with a resume that's optimized to match the listing -- this is an important technique to keep in mind if you have any hope of getting past some "front line" recruiter and human resources filters. I've spoken with friends who recommended highly qualified candidates for internal organization openings -- only to see their resumes not make it past the first screening. Then, the same candidate sail through the process on a less matched position with a revision of their resume to match the specific listed "requirements". The point here is that requirements are a checklist used by the people who run the filter -- and they don't interpret that checklist or look for shades of capability.

3. Lie... err... Fictionalize... err... Loosely Interpret and stretch your background -- I don't recommend this. It's not something that I would do. But it goes without saying that I have run into people in the workplace who seem to have padded their background with capabilities and skills that they didn't really have. My personal experience is that this approach comes back to bite someone -- either the resume-padder or the people that they work with who are now saddled with colleague that can't do what they claim. Also, going back to another one of my previous posts, it's easy to overlook how small Silicon Valley really is. And if the work environment here is small, I would bet that your only way to escape the consequences of this type of move if you work in other locations is relocation.

Of course, moving beyond the how-I-try-to-be 'legal' disclaimer, consider "stretch your background" from a marketing point of view -- specifically, what exactly are you saying when you say "stretch your background." Forget about the making stuff up part -- what about that project team that you worked on, whose idea was it to add that feature? Was that you or the team? Or how about something like CRM -- if you worked three years at an organization that heavily used CRM, does that really make you more of an expert than the guy that set-up and configured, only to watch the sales team not use it? The reality of these hypotheticals is that we work with real world examples like these every day. We work with people who take credit for our work or don't contribute to group processes. And, in the marketplace of your career, your competition includes those people.

Typically when your marketing a product, you don't have to tell you're potential customer about all of the negatives, the features that underperform, or the nuanced aspects of how the product doesn't work. Think about what might happen if you were buying a used car and you could see a detailed view of every moment of the car's history -- would your potential customer rule the car out because of that time when the car drove to Lake Tahoe, or maybe because of that time the car went over that speed bump at 20 MPH instead of 10?

Again, my point in all of this is not to misrepresent the product that is you. When you are selling you, you need to remember that you're taking your prospective employer through a selling process. And one of the first stages of that process -- the resume / cover letter gateway -- is early-stage selling, and you need to be concientious about controlling your message.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Another Political Post - What's In Your Presentation?

I know, I know. I really try to avoid political posts, but this story struck me as so amusing that I simply had to post something about it. First, I need to start by saying that I didn't watch John McCain's speech tonight, but I thought I would run through the news blogs before I went to bed tonight when I came across this bit of news, Mystery Revealed, from Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo (if you haven't read Josh Marshall's blog, this is one of THE best investigative journalism sites for politics -- one of his subdomains is Talking Points Muckraker, and their team truly fit the muckraker definition).

So, according to the story on TPM, during John McCain's speech tonight, there was a segment of the presentation that featured John McCain standing in front of this large building. It turns out that that building is the Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, CA. The post includes pics of the building from the school's web site. So why is John McCain standing in front of this middle school -- well, we can only speculate, but the most likely reason is that the person who put together the presentation background was looking for graphics of Walter Reed (not to be confused with the medical center where so many of our veterans are staying) and they found this beautiful picture.

Think about that for a moment. You're preparing a presentation, one that you only get one opportunity to present, and that opportunity comes once every four years -- call it once in a lifetime.

How much do you know about the images that you are using? That might be worth considering when you're preparing a presentation for funding of your next start-up... or even yet another iteration of that product line that you've been working on for three years.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Blackberry vs. iPhone - My review

After nearly two years using a Blackberry as my mobile communication platform, I just purchased the iPhone 3G a couple of weeks ago. In some ways, I wouldn't say that the decision was straightforward -- and depending on how you use your phone, it may not be the right decision for you. And, while it's not specifically a marketing topic, I thought I'd offer a few observations that might help guide your thoughts if you're considering a phone or a switch.

Background - Blackberry, the most advanced business communication platform and hands-down, the best phone that I've ever used.

As noted, I first picked up a Blackberry nearly two years ago, coupled with a decision to switch from Verizon to Cingular. While with Verizon, one phone had died and I switched to the Motorola Q, hoping to get access to my work email through my phone. After using the Q for a month or so, I found it to be a poor match for my usage -- I didn't like the full keyboard (it was impossible to dial a number without looking), it seemed like the Windows mobile application crashed a lot, and when it came to checking email, the process of checking POP3 seemed to hang the system and kill the battery. I tried to work with Verizon to swap the Q for a more traditional phone, but they wouldn't work with me, so I decided to try Cingular. My first phone from Cingular was one of the first 3G phones, an LG model that would (theoretically) allow me to use the phone like a modem and connect to the highspeed network. Not only could I not make that work, the phone dropped calls all the time whenever it switched from between 3G and Edge networks. Fortunately, the guys at Cingular were very flexible and willing to work with me on swapping the phone -- and that's when I got my Blackberry 7130 -- the predecessor to the Blackberry Pearl.

Here are a few of the things that I think help make the Blackberry the best business communication and messaging platform available:
  • Profiles: The Blackberry had a whole list of setting profiles that allow you to configure how the phone behaves when specific profiles are activated. In 'Normal' mode and when the phone is not in it's holster, the phone will ring when a call comes in, but if an email comes in, it will change the LED from blinking green to blinking red. In 'Normal' mode when the phone is in the holster, a phone call will make it vibrate twice, then ring, while an email or a message will just make it vibrate. You can customize all of these settings as well as ring assignments and more.
  • The Intelligent Holster: The Blackberry adds intelligence to the holster so that the phone knows when it is in a holster or not. Basically, it uses a magnet (some plusses and minuses on that one) in order to switch the phone. When you put the phone in it's holster, it puts it the keypad to sleep and changes the profile.
  • Speed Dial: Configure single button speed dial settings for your frequently dialed numbers.
  • Online email Account Pre-screening Rules: Set up email routing rules so that you can filter Spam -- or only route certain high-priority messages.
  • A Dial pad that works like a regular cell phone: This isn't true if you have one of those full-sized keyboard models, but for the Pearl model, each key functions as two keys for QWERTY work, but the center of the keyboard is a standard phone number pad.
  • Standard Cable Interface: One USB mini port used for all charging, data sync, etc.
  • Third-party software: there are a lot of business-centric applications that you can download and install on your Blackberry - language tools, tools to view PDF and Office documents, even an application that will allow you to use Skype on your Blackberry (an awesome tool for international calling).
  • The Blackberry Server and Push technology: The Blackberry pushes email to your phone as soon as the server sees that you have a message on the server. Not only does this help you get messages faster, it seems to help with your battery life as your phone only has to get email when the server pushes something to it. If you're company hasn't invested in Blackberry Server, RIM servers query your mail server on a scheduled basis, then push email when they get some.
  • Integrated text tools in the Blackberry OS: Copy, Cut and Paste, Highlight text, dial number. Until I switched to the iPhone, I took this functionality for granted. The Blackberry allows you to hold down the shift key and highlight sections of text. You can then cut, copy, or paste that text across the platform.
As you can probably tell, I'm a big fan of the Blackberry, and if you're a current user, I'm not suggesting that you run out and get an iPhone. If your thinking about switching, it's actually a difficult decision -- here are a couple of other issues that I've wrestled with.
  • Lack of the Holster / Message LED / Profiles on the iPhone: If you're used to that Crackberry on your hip, my phone just vibrated because another message just came in experience, the iPhone is just not going to provide the same level of experience. Sure you can set it to vibrate when there is an email, and sure, you can get a holster, but the iPhone isn't going to magically know when your phone is in the holster or not (like if you're in a meeting). And if you've left your phone on the desk and stepped away, there isn't a visual clue to help you see that the iPhone has messages.
  • Lack of Physical Buttons: Sometimes this is cool, but I find that dialing with the touch screen is a good way to missdial -- it seems that I often trigger "call" instead of some other button that I wanted. Also, depending on the way that you hold the phone, I find that sometimes I accidentally trigger some of the edge buttons.
  • Differences between the iPhone button layout and the Blackberry layout: the call / hang-up buttons on the iPhone are backwards (left-right, right-left) from the layout on the Blackberry, so several times I hung up when I intended to answer a call.
The iPhone - The Most Amazing Mobile Web / Other Application tool Available

With all of the issues that I pointed to above, you might think that I'm kicking myself for switching to the iPhone, but that's not the case. The two platforms are remarkably different, and the advantages of each can't really be matched by the other. When it comes to web functionality, the iPhone simply has no equal. Here are some of the things that make the iPhone unparalleled for web use:
  • View full web pages and zoom in and out: Compared to most mobile viewers that deconstruct the page and present pages more like a text-based browser, the iPhone displays web pages as you would view them on your computer -- when the web pages appear, you see the full page, and you can zoom in as needed. It's easy to underestimate just how useful this feature is -- particularly as this functionality is carried across the entire platform, from the mail client to third party applications.
  • A Web Browser that works like a web browser - Example, I've loaded pages on my iPhone -- that's dashboards and all -- and the interface works. In trying the same thing on my Blackberry, I needed the ' mobile edition' and that pretty much only functioned like a version of the 'Offline Edition'. If you're an administrator, this is pretty much a waste of time -- and not worth the cost of the mobile client seat license. Don't get me wrong, Salesforce doesn't seem to like the idea of you entering data through your iPhone (this kept causing my browser to crash), but I think that's only a matter of time -- unless SFDC wants to try and squeeze a few extra cents off of iPhone users.
    At the same time, this web functionality on the iPhone means that I can administer web site content using some of my web-based content manager -- and it works flawlessly.
  • Integrated WIFI: Maybe it's just me, I don't typically use the wireless networks at Starbucks and other places -- but when I go to the office or when I get home, having access to the Wireless LAN means that my email attachments download faster. It also means that if I want to use the iPhone for web browsing, it's almost as good as my laptop, it just weighs less.
  • Touchscreen Typing: Although it's taken me a little bit of time to get used to typing on the touchscreen -- my fingers just seem too big -- once I got used to it, I find it much easier to type with the iPhone than I did using the tiny buttons on the Blackberry or the Motorola Q. With the Blackberry, I always felt like I could answer, but it was just going to take time, so that if I was anywhere close to a computer and a keyboard, I would use the computer. With the iPhone, it's so easy to type that I am usually happy to use it.
  • The Applications Store: Although the Blackberry has a host of third-party applications available for it, the iPhone offers many applications that were simply not available before. Here's a few of the applications that I've downloaded and what they do:
    - Yelp! - Online restaurant reviews with Geo-location. Extremely handy for identifying restaurants on the go.
    - Jot - An online voice-encoding, note-translation service. This is a cool app!
    - Showtimes - Geo-location-based movie times
    - Shazam - an application that listens to music, then tells you what the song is
    - Pandora - Internet radio with format identified by 'music genome'
    - Games - Crossword puzzles, other puzzle games, things that make me use the iPhone for more than simply the Pavlovian response to vibrations on my hip

    The thing about these applications is not so much what they do, but more that they are simply software -- software that takes the platform in directions and uses that I probably wouldn't have gone before I had the iPhone; software that is quite different from the business-centric tools available for the Blackberry.

  • IPod functionality - I've always said that I would prefer to have my music player not sucking down the battery on my phone -- but the iPod on the iPhone actually seems to run more efficiently than many of the other applications that you'll use all the time. It may be worth having a separate traveling iPod just for the plane, but having one on the phone isn't as bad as I thought it would be.
In conclusion, I'm happy with my iPhone. As I mentioned, if you're using a Blackberry, I don't know that I would recommend that you switch -- it's really important to look at how you're using your Blackberry, and what you would expect to use the iPhone for. Here's how I would summarize:

  • Great platform for seeing your messages and immediately knowing what message came it
  • Easier phone number dialing support -- physical number pad and speed dial support -- makes it better as a phone when driving
  • Highlight, Copy and Paste support -- this still surprises me that it isn't supported on the iPhone
  • The BEST mobile internet platform - YouTube looks so good you may even find yourself using it.
  • Email client - it's Apple's mail client. You're viewing html emails, so you can view different languages, etc. It's easier to send emails and there doesn't appear to be a limit on mailboxes (like with the Blackberry), but some fuctions aren't as nice (wouldn't it be nice to be able to store and attach files?)
  • Applications support - I don't know where you will go with this, but I didn't expect to download any of the applications that I did. The possibilities are huge.
  • Touch, rotation, the ability to play video - they look cool, but you also look cool using it.
How about you? If you've used both, what do you find are the big differences? What would you like to see changed? Which one would you recommend? And if you're an iPhone user, what are some of your favorite apps?