Intelligent Businesses Use Echolocation!

In an environment driven by speed and dominated by growing uncertainties, businesses are expressing more and more difficulties to sustain and improve their competitive position. Mighty companies such as IBM, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft or Nokia do know that business success is never an “acquis” and that any long-time leadership position can now get eroded within weeks and even days in some sectors.

Just some weeks ago, rumours were circulating about the collapse of the giant Eastman Kodak Company. The 131-year-old icon that brought photography to the mass and launched the first digital camera is forced to face tough realities of the new business world.

The K-brand company is another clear example that there are no definite winning rules in business; any competitive environment can be disrupted anytime. Rules of business games can now be reinvented and imposed by new entrants. It is no longer the privilege of the big or the mighty.

In this ever-changing playground, it is essential for companies willing to survive and thrive to understand their environment, track their competitors, critically review their position and never ever fall in the trap of complacency: this is the very concept of business intelligence.

A quick Google search pulls out millions of internet pages on business intelligence. Many of them associate this concept to information technology (IT). Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, defines business intelligence as “computer-based techniques used in identifying, extracting and analysing business data”. On the website searchdatamanagement.com, one can read “business intelligence is a broad category of applications and technologies for gathering, storing, analysing and providing access to data to help enterprise users make better business decisions.”

These definitions are wrong. Yes, IT is at the heart of business intelligence. No, business intelligence is not IT as some might claim. IT is just an enabler!

To define business intelligence and illustrate its importance for companies, a simple and natural technique used by bats (Yes Bats!) can be referred to. Bats emit, in the dark, high-frequency vocalisations through their mouths and noses as they fly. These vocalisations then bounce back to them as echoes, which enables them to form images of their surroundings in their brains. If their ears get injured or clogged, they are unable to receive any echoes and therefore lose their ability to locate themselves and move accordingly. This continuous process known as echo-location is a sine qua non for the survival of bats as it allows them to scan their environment, track their prey, devise their future movements and eventually feed themselves.

Business intelligence is echolocation for businesses. With the new dynamics of business games, it is vital for companies to echolocate themselves on a constant basis, to critically assess their position and adapt their strategic movements accordingly.

Entrepreneurs and business managers claiming that business intelligence is useless and that their flair and experience are enough to ensure their path to success are living out of this world. Sure, flair and experience help but without a proper understanding of their business environment and analysis of their competitive position, businesses are condemned to failure.

For those who want to succeed, keep this in mind: Intelligent Businesses use Echolocation!

70 Percent of Local Business Owners Market on Facebook – Not!

On March 1, 2011, a popular public relations website posted an article based on previously published research, claiming “70 percent of local-business owners market on Facebook.” The headline was shocking, the content equally bold, and the dialog that followed typical of the hype surrounding social media.

Readers began commenting almost immediately. One visitor challenged the assertion, suggesting it should not have been cited without investigation, and the site’s publisher quickly defended the post with a series of anecdotes about an 80-year-old t-shirt merchant, a few local bars and a family diner. From a neighboring state, the CEO of a marketing firm saw the publisher’s tweet and countered with his disbelief. Many of his followers echoed his skepticism.

Within days, this relatively obscure article had been “tweeted” 99 times, “liked” 35 times and “inShared” 117 times, as social media devotees echoed the good news: Facebook is king. Meanwhile, skeptics retaliated with posts of their own. Such is the power of social media. But one has to wonder how many of the people who shared, responded to, or blindly retweeted this post took the time to read the original press release on which it was based, or followed the author’s embedded links to the survey data, posted two weeks earlier. I suspect if they had, there would have been less activity, as a careful review of the data reveals a very different picture.

It all comes down to sample bias – a term used to describe the use of a skewed or non-random group as representative of the larger universe. In the case of this study, researchers confined the sample space to members of “the largest social network of local business owners in the U.S.” The key word, here, is “social network.”

Local business owners who choose to join (and remain active in) social networks would obviously be a subset of the larger universe of local business owners, and a survey of that subset would not likely be representative of the universe. The sampling was further skewed by the method chosen to distribute the survey invitations: email. So, those who participated in the survey would have had to be members of the subset of the social network (subset) who are loyal enough to open and act on emails from the organization. It’s not hard to see why these social networkers might be more likely to practice social media marketing than would local business owners who don’t even belong to social networks, much less participate in their surveys.

Using statistics drawn from a biased subset of local business owners to represent all local business owners is no more justifiable than drawing conclusions on the national rate of alcohol consumption from a survey of bar patrons.

The practice is, however, entertaining. And the results lend themselves well to viral distribution by social media enthusiasts.

In the social media world, mistakes like this are self-perpetuating, simply because they feed the buzz. But who pays the price for feeding the buzz? Perhaps those at greatest risk are the “followers” who view reposts as endorsements. So, next time you come across a startling discovery – particularly one that just doesn’t make sense – consider doing your friends and followers a favor, with the delete key.

The Echo Effect of Social Bookmarking

A short time ago, I was preparing an SEO Case Study using some recommended Web 2.0 strategies and I thought my notes might be an interesting read for someone on the same path of learning.

I have a series of five websites that are four months old. Each site has about 5-700 pages indexed in Google, some pages indexed in Yahoo, but almost nothing in MSN, according to the data at Marketleap. All of these sites were roughly built by following the business plan outlines and ideas offered by Rick Butts.

This experiment intends to combine the idea presented in an Internet Marketing Secrets Podcast, (to pre-schedule blog posts intended to take over the top search placements for details surrounding Big Public Events that are already scheduled to occur) and utilize methods of Web 2.0 marketing that are currently proving effective, (after posting to your blog, announce it on several web2 sites. Then bookmark your post and the announcement pages on social bookmarking sites).

The measurement of success will be – the number of people who sign up to download the ebooks that are offered along side announcements about the event.

As I’ve been carefully targeting a narrow set of niche keywords, I’ve been monitoring the resulting changes in the top 30 ranking websites.

Just as before, I’ve been able to quickly grab several of the top placements for my keyword phrases. Results are showing up where I own four of the top 10 and fifteen of the top 30 searches on my phrase – because I’m using a series of five blogs on WordPress, a series of five independently hosted websites and a blog on LiveJournal. In addition, I’ve been posting summaries of my blog posts to three document and news release websites like Scibd and Propeller.

After all these co-ordinated posts are completed, I’ve been following directions and bookmarking the articles and the article summaries with ten or twelve popular social bookmarking sites using Onlywire service to make it easier.

I started to see by blog posts appear in the top search results first – often within an hour. Soon these listings are overtaken by the new release sites. After a day or two, my hosted website pages begin to show in the top 20 to 30. To my delight and surprise, within another day or two, I begin to see even more top rankings because of the “Echo Effect” of Social Bookmarking.

The ‘Echo Effect’ occurs when the RSS feeds from these Bookmarking sites are picked up by other sites and blogs around the internet. Google is indexing these feeds, giving my campaign more top rankings and more links back to my original article, resulting in an echo effect of even more website traffic.

Of course… this gives me lots of new ideas for marketing in new Niches – and inspires me to continue building a complete list of web 2.0 sites that Google loves.

Here’s to Business on the Internet!