“Do what you do best… and link to the rest”

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One of Jeff Jarvis’s many mantras, and particularly relevant as I continue thinking through my content strategy. Figuring out what to include–from broader things like potential eBook topics, to minor details like which news blurbs to include in a particular post–can be challenging. I started getting feedback from newsletter subscribers, and it’s been useful to see what resonates with readers so far. It’s also helpful to keep sight of my core, short-term goals and target market; I’m not supposed to be the authoritative voice for every rule and every headline in every sport ever. Just do what I can… And link to the rest (or leave that to the guys at ESPN).

We also talked about closing business deals and how hard it can be to convert leads into sales–how to turn someone who’s just interested in the product to an actual buyer. I couldn’t help but think of another sports analogy–closers in baseball. The player whose sole role it is to pitch just one inning, but the last and most important one. They’re paid a lot more than other relievers and get a lot more attention. (There’s a lot of analysis out there on average salaries, Wins Above Replacement, etc., in a debate about whether or not closers are overvalued.) Anyways, I digress. The point is that there’s something to be said for getting past that final tipping point necessary to actually get a business deal done, even if it requires a much smaller percentage of the total time it took to build the relationship with the customer.

And a few interesting tidbits from our trip to Tumblr:

  • When it comes to competition, you’re competing for people’s attention, even if it’s not with a similar product. The example given was that Time‘s main competitor wasn’t just Newsweek, but rather anything people were doing with their time that wasn’t reading Time.
  • The U.S. accounts for 35 percent of Tumblr’s traffic; Brazil is second despite the fact that it’s not translated into Brazilian Portuguese. The reason? Socioeconomic status: Because the majority of lower-class Brazilians don’t know English, using Tumblr is associated with being more educated/higher class.
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On key metrics and business development strategies

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A little potpourri of thoughts for this week:

On key metrics: We talked about how different kinds of metrics can be useful indicators of growth/success and discussed important ones to keep in mind–so for example, page views versus unique users versus bounce rate, etc. This was pretty interesting to me as I (very slowly!) start trying to build up a newsletter subscription list and Twitter following for my project. There’s a little bit of a debate on the value of focusing on “one key metric” versus taking a more holistic approach. I tend to lean towards the latter, although I also see the value in focusing on just one in short-term spurts.

On business development, networking and rejection: We visited the offices of Dwolla, where Alex Taub talked to us about business development and networking. He emphasized building your network and powering through rejection.

“I get rejected about five times a day. I wouldn’t want to work with someone who didn’t thrive off rejection,” he said. And then emphasized the point again in a slide that read, “Getting rejected sucks. Then you begin to expect it. Then you love it. Then you thrive on it. Getting one ‘no’ makes me want to get five ‘yes’s’.” He does the majority of his communication and networking through gchat and has a pretty extensive contact list.

Everyone takes a different approach to BD/networking–“It’s a numbers game!” versus a slow and steady process of building relationships. I’m not sure it’s quite that simple for everyone–Alex has a lot of energy/experience, and it seems to work for him–but the point was well taken. To use a sports analogy… it’s like being a running back, putting the blinders on, and barreling through a mass of linemen and linebackers.

Either way, I definitely agreed with the point that he ended on: “Have fun! YOLO.”

When action catches up with “ideation”

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The past week has been a balancing act between thinking about process/planning/idea generation and actually acting on some of the things that had been percolating in my mind.

During Wednesday’s tech workshop, we talked a lot about project planning and setting goals and milestones. Jeff Mignon from RevSquared said something along the lines of “Don’t fool yourself, but fool yourself enough.” His point was that we should be realistic — don’t fool yourself by thinking that all of your ideas are amazing and you can achieve everything — but at the same time, we should maintain some optimism — fool yourself enough so that you aren’t paralyzed or deterred by potential obstacles and all that there is to do.

On a similar note, Paul Noglows (who does work with the Paley Center and is an adjunct professor in the program) encouraged us not to wait too long to launch, and that we should do so when we have an MVP — a “minimally viable product,” to get the ball rolling. I think figuring out what that “MVP” is for me will be tricky, but regardless, I started getting to the point where the action had to catch up with all of the “ideation,” for lack of a better word.

So I’ve been putting posts up on my “beta” website here, and the plan is to continue these two to three times a week. My near-term goals (as far as the actual product itself goes) are to revamp the site design and get a newsletter going through MailChimp.

But there is still value in reflecting on process and planning (versus implementation), especially in a serendipitous way. Today we talked about the importance of allowing ourselves breaks and what Jeremy calls a “tech Sabbath.” It’s easy to get adrenaline-happy, caught up in all of the milestones and obsessed with constant productivity. But some of the best outcomes occur when you’re not trying to think about things. And on that note, I’m off!