Sunday, April 17, 2011

Testing Out Salesforce Rockstars and Cocktail Rings Online

I have recently been testing out various business opportunities and I'm going to start keeping track of my activities each week.

This week I tested out 2 concepts, the first is an eCommerce website called Cocktail Rings Online ( and the second is a consulting firm that specializes in helping companies implement and customize their CRM application.

Cocktail Rings Online: I created a bare bones eCommerce site and added about 25 rings to it using the shopping cart application (if you haven't used Big Commerce before I recommend it, they've been quite helpful in starting this website and the software is easy to use). I tried this concept because these cocktail rings are the best sellers in my wife's Etsy shop ( and I thought it'd be interesting to see how a website would do that just sold these cocktail rings.

So after I got the website ready (not pretty, just functional) I started testing some online marketing with Adwords and Facebook Ads. For Adwords I created a text ad that featured "Cocktail Rings" and said something cheesy about "adding some sparkle to your finger" (that wording was all my wife's doing). Anyway I chose keywords for Cocktail Rings, Gemstone Rings, Sterling-silver rings and other. I set my daily budget at $20 and turned it loose. Over the week I received about 60 clicks, the best performing keyword by far was simply "Cocktail Rings", nothing else even came close. This campaign ended up costing me about $95.00, I got 60 clicks, but the only customer action I received was one lady emailing me to ask if we can re-size our rings (which we cannot do at this point).

For the Facebook Ads I ended up spending about $75 and got 100 clicks.

So at the end of the day, I spent close to $200 on this idea and got skunked, no paying customers. I'll have to try and either change something for next week or try something new completely.

For the Second business idea, I created a website using Weebly called The website basically is a landing page that says "We're experts in helping you implement/customize, and we'll help you." Then I included a contact form that anyone who's interested can use to contact me. The concept is quite simple and I just wanted to see if I could get some good qualified leads.

I used Adwords keywords for " Consultant", " implementation", and others. To my surprise, these keywords were quite popular, leading to a bunch of clicks, each of which I had to pay for :(. However after dumping about $180 bucks down that hole, I had some good traffic, but no qualified leads.

For now I've shut down all my marketing efforts (I've gotta pay rent next month) and I need to look at what happened and why these tests failed. My initial impression is that the Salesforce Rockstars ads were probably too broad so I'll need to figure out a way to target them more effectively. And with the cocktail rings website... well, I could use any advice on that one, even if that advice is "that was a dumb move, I could've told you that'd flop".

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Recap of The Economist report on Smart Grids

This week "The Economist" ran a 14-page special report on "Smart Grids". They cover everything many topics regarding smart grids from sensors to new city projects to IT opportunities. I've been hearing this buzz float around for a while now but after reading this report I think I finally am getting an idea of what they are trying to accomplish.

Here are a few highlights I thought were interesting:

1. Cities are updating their infrastructures to make them smarter. The article tells many stories about this but one in particular is about how London has been taking its centuries-old water system and making it smart but implementing sensors that report water flow, leaks, etc. This has allowed the city to save on water and they can now respond more quickly to main breaks.

2. Boulder Colorado is the home to what is considered the world's first "fully fledged smart grid". Their energy utility, Xcel Energy, has installed 20,000+ smart meters that report all electricity usage in real time and they're starting to offer dynamic pricing plans that allow them to charge different rates depending on the time of day (peak vs off-peak hours).

3. Opportunities will be had in Analytics. With all these sensors getting deployed someone will need to gather all this data and analyze it so humans can make good decisions. That said, there will be a lot of growth for anyone that can provide data storage and analysis.

I recommend you pick up the article and take a look because it has the potential to affect all of us.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Future of GM

This week I sat through a lecture discussing the current state of the US auto industry, specifically GM. I am mainly restating what I heard in this lecture because I find it very interesting and I think that it should be discussed.

Many political pundits will tell you that with hindsight, the GM bailout was a good idea. After all, we gave the company breathing room to pay off some debts, renegotiate others, and most importantly we saved thousands of American manufacturing jobs and we can still say that “America Builds Things”! Now as GM prepares for one of the largest public stock offerings in history in which they plan to pay back the government for its investment we can start to ask, was this really a good idea?

Here’s a couple reasons why we might want to still be a little sceptical of the bailout frenzy. First of all let’s ask, what does GM still make? Primarily trucks that sit on large chassis and frames that tend to use lots of fuel. What’s most frightening about these trucks though is that many in Washington want to push through legislation to make these same exact vehicles illegal to drive on American roads by the year 2015 (find source). Therefore if that’s the case then we just bailed out a company whose main product will be illegal to sell in the US in under 5 years...interesting.

Another reason to be skeptical is to really look at the Chevy Volt, what some are saying will be the savior of the company. The Volt is still out of reach of many Americans at a price tag of $41K ($33K if Washington can implement the tax credit) and therefore still can’t compete with Toyota’s Prius at around $25K. And when you look at the overall product line of GM the Volt is still just a tiny sliver of their offering. I might even venture to say that the Volt was somewhat of a political maneuver to show Washington that they’re moving forward but they’re really still banking on the old way of doing business.

Again I’m not claiming this is exactly what will happen but it is something that should be discussed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Four Square Investigation

I recently started trying out this new Four Square location check-in App on my iPhone to see what the craze is all about. After one week I have checked in at 12 places ranging from my school (Babson College) to Fenway Park (I was actually outside, those tickets are still a little rich for my grad-student blood) to the barber shop. At this point I don't have any "Mayor-ships" (I think you become the mayor of a place if you check-in more than anyone else). The UI is pretty good but occasionally it has some trouble finding my current location in its database.

From a marketer's standpoint I think it has some interesting possibilities, namely it could enable marketers to advertise to people in the immediate area which could be great for a small businesses like restaurants. When you "Check-in" you can see "Specials Nearby" which usually pops up some Starbucks ad but once it catches on I hope to see more local-based advertisers.

One other feature I like is the "Nearby Tips" which opens recommendations for nearby places similar to a Yelp-type app.

Here's another good blog post on location marketing and where it's headed:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Will the iPad Change Software like Did?

Today I will poach a post from Marc Benioff the Founder/CEO of He is the man who led the world into the Cloud Computing phase by saying that enterprise software should be more like back before web-based software was created.

Now he is predicting yet another movement in the software in the software industry, this time having to do with the iPad and the activity of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Have a read:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Who Is Your Client Messenger?

Yesterday I had an interesting call with a client who was informing me that he wants to switch to a competing website provider because he found a new company with better SEO/SEM capabilities and he feels this new company will improve their search results.

I went on to tell him that we had recently "beefed up" our SEO/SEM capabilities (which we have, I wasn't just blowing smoke at him) and I am confident that we have a better solution for him which led him to ask, "Well who inside your organization is responsible for messaging this new capability to clients?" Interestingly enough, I didn't know, I'm not even sure what I told the client...I probably just fumbled over my words and sounded like an idiot.

I began thinking about this, who REALLY is responsible for messaging new functionality to clients? Is it the Account Manager who has regular contact with the client? Or maybe it's the sales person, after all he is responsible for generating more revenue from clients. Maybe I'm just trying to cover my --- but this scenario doesn't necessarily fit the salesman's job because the new features are not "revenue generating" features, they're just enhancements. Maybe it's the marketing department who puts together all newsletters and client notifications.

Either way, if your organization hasn't had this discussion then it's probably time to be proactive about messaging new features to your clients. It does absolutely nothing for your business if you're working hard developing all these new features but no one knows what you're doing! If that explains your organization then someone with a better message is ready to come in and take your business.

Competitors are out there!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stop Negotiating Against Yourself!

Here is a great post written by a University of Texas professor on why we need to stop negotiating against ourselves! I know most of us are guilty of it, we say "I can't get X because of Y".

Recently I rationalized that I couldn't land a large sales deal simply because the potential client was using one of our competitors. I assumed they were happy and had no desire to switch. It wasn't until much later that I found out that the potential client was in fact unhappy with their current provider and I swept in and landed the deal. While this example has a happy ending, if I would not have negotiated myself out of the deal up front then we'd have landed the business MUCH sooner.

Have a read...