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This morning (Feb 11, 2011), Nokia and Microsoft announced that they will work together to deliver Nokia phones on the Microsoft Windows Phone platform. Desperate move? Yes. A good one given the situation that  both players are in? Yes.

Nokia CEO apparently wrote this letter to Nokia employees explaining just how dire their situation was. He equated it to standing on a burning oil platform where the best option is to jump into risky waters. Elop had learned that Nokia had missed the shift to developer-friendly ecosystems and platforms for mobiles. Apple's iPhone/AppStore and Google's Android/AppStore combos were sucking all of the market oxygen out of the room. In his words:

Apple disrupted the market by redefining the smartphone and attracting developers to a closed, but very powerful ecosystem.

In 2008, Apple's market share in the $300+ price range was 25 percent; by 2010 it escalated to 61 percent. They are enjoying a tremendous growth trajectory with a 78 percent earnings growth year over year in Q4 2010. Apple demonstrated that if designed well, consumers would buy a high-priced phone with a great experience and developers would build applications. They changed the game, and today, Apple owns the high-end range.

And then, there is Android. In about two years, Android created a platform that attracts application developers, service providers and hardware manufacturers. Android came in at the high-end, they are now winning the mid-range, and quickly they are going downstream to phones under €100. Google has become a gravitational force, drawing much of the industry's innovation to its core.

...and then the money quote:

The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems, where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things. Our competitors aren't taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we're going to have to decide how we either build, catalyse or join an ecosystem.

This is one of the decisions we need to make. In the meantime, we've lost market share, we've lost mind share and we've lost time.

The employee letter was probably leaked purposefully to get the market up to speed as quickly as employees. It was meant to shock those within and outside into the realization that Nokia management saw disaster looming and was serious about making fundamental changes in strategy. There's a story about Cortés burning his ships (actually "scuttling", but that's a nit) to prevent his men from shifting their focus from the task at hand. Elop may have been doing the same with this memo to get everyone "on board" and truly focused on the success of the new stategy.

Why is this the right move for Nokia and Microsoft and their customers? Let's consider their options.

  1. Build another ecosystem - Nokia has failed trying to do this already with Symbian and MeeGo stalled while iOS and Android swallow up market and mind share. Even with a renewed focus, it's unlikely that these platforms can become relevant quickly enough. Most mature markets can only support three dominant players. With iOS, Android and Blackberry dominant, where does that leave Nokia? Also, staying with internal programs is not NEWS. Nokia needs to be news to get others paying attention to them.
  2. Join iOS - Not really an option. Apple jealously guards their ecosystems.
  3. Join Android - What ...and join the many previously no-name phone manufacturers like HTC and fall prey to the whims of Google? That would be an unequal partnership and further subordinate Nokia's brand.
  4. Join Microsoft - Right choice.
    1. Microsoft Phone is getting some positive nods. TechCrunch wrote about the Microsoft Phone launch "Wow, With Windows Phone 7, Did Microsoft Actually Bring A Gun To A Gun Fight?":
      Brian X. Chen had a nice rundown in Wired today as to why he thinks Windows Phone could lead to better products than Android. The basic gist? Microsoft is sort of taking a middle of the road approach between Apple and Google in the mobile space. They’re working with a lot of partners (like Google), but they’re imposing a fairly strict set of manufacturing rules and rigorously testing to make sure the products are up to standards (like Apple).

      The end result, I suspect, will be products that fall in between the iPhone and Android phones in terms of build quality. And maybe even usability. That coupled with multiple carrier and OEM partners will mean a lot of units sold for Microsoft. And it could actually expose a weakness in Android if people start to associate those phones with crappier build quality.

    2. Microsoft needs to reach critical mass soon to stay relevant themselves in the space and Nokia needs a smart partner with resources to help move quickly. Also, Microsoft has motivation and NEEDS Nokia to be successful.
    3. Microsoft has a vast developer network, but developers choose what to work on based on bang for the buck - essentially, what's shipping (or will be shipping) the most and presenting the largest footprint? Microsoft can get quite a few of its developer partners to pay attention now.

The company that could be most worried about this deal is Blackberry. If the Nokia / Microsoft initiative succeeds, and both players are desperate to make it so, then RIM's Blackberry OS becomes the somewhat forgotten 4th player.

Laptop Magazine Diagrams the Bracket
OS Bowl Game 2: BlackBerry vs. Windows Phone 7

As a multi-channel user experience guy, this is exciting because the levels of innovation in user experience and platform design will create varied opportunities for retailers and app developers and deliver fascinating choices for buyers. That's good for EVERYONE.

Most of us probably already know that keywords (not just those in metadata) make a difference in your search engine battle to the top (organic SEO), and through that, to the top of your potential customer's click list. It's absolutely not the only thing that matters, but it can make a huge difference in gaining an online audience. I see my web consulting customers making mistakes in this area often and have some great success stories, so it was time to write this reminder about gaining the keyword habit. I want you to learn to speak keyword to improve your organic SEO -- the "free" kind.

Keep keywords relevant.

Keywords should not be used carelessly in your attempts to gain organic search engine optimization (SEO). They should be clearly relevant to what you do. Relevance in this case means words that a customer would use to describe (and search for) your business. If you use industry terms that a customer might not use, then expect failure. Once a customer gets to your site, they need to be clearly rewarded with evidence that your business is truly relevant to their search terms. This payoff should include seeing those keywords again in your messaging as well in the overall context of your site. Good website design also means that the keywords should be fortified with strong "why-to-buys" -- #1 Provider of..., Best, Award-winning... and promotions -- Free introductory offer... so that the customer realizes that you are relevant and the best choice. Your goal is to prevent the dreaded click-back. Click-backs (clicking back away from your site to the search list to pick the next listing) are rejection and a lost sale.

Keep keywords consistent.

If your keywords seem to have Attention Deficit disorder, then they may be ineffective. Some core keywords should be consistently used throughout your site. A select set of keywords can be added to specific pages of your site to highlight its topic. Keep your total keyword list to no more than 5-7 words with a priority given to 2-3 keywords. Keep in mind that derivations of a word make them two different keywords -- rental vs. renting.

Keep your text readable.

Don't get carried away and bristle your paragraphs with keywords such that reading is uncomfortable. Not only will customers be ill-served, but also Google bots may consider it trickery and penalize your ranking. Read through your text and make sure that the text is clear and easily readable. Remember that keywords also should be in metadata that users don't always see (page tags: title, description, keywords; image tags: alt, title, etc.).

Speak keyword.

Make it a habit to throw keywords into everything that you write online. The entire Internet is searchable. so your social media Twitter tweets, Facebook status, LinkedIn status all should be rich in keywords about your business. Remenber also to include backlinks to your site to "bring them home" to your website to close the sale.

Monitor progress. Yours and competitors

Keep your keywords up-to-date and competitive. Remember that your competitors want to be number one in search rankings too and will be trying to beat you. Monitor which keywords are working (and which aren't) for your website AND your competitors'.

 

I attended an eMarketer webinar today to get updated on the video advertising world. eMarketer CEO Geoff Ramsey spoke about "Online Video as the Internet and TV Converge". It has been a while since I lived it day to day as part of the AOL Video team. In a nutshell, here is what I learned. I'll paraphrase until I get the official preso from eMarketer with the details and then I will update this post with sources and clarifications.

An ANA / Forrester study found that 62% of marketers surveyed believed that the effectiveness of video advertising declines online. However, personal video recorder (PVR) usage is taking a wack at the traditional TV ad models.

Online video usage is growing, but has not yet eclipsed the broadcast video realm even with the most likely demographic, youth.

  • TV viewing averages a whopping 4.7 hours/DAY while online video averages <4 hours/MONTH.
  • 28% (studies range from 21%-44%) of online video viewers watch full length shows online. This is a big change over the last few years due to offerings such as Hulu (and AOL Video?).
  • Hulu, with over 38 million subscribers and growing, exceeds Time Warner Cable's audience at 34 million. Comcast and DirectTV still lead with 62M and 48M, respectively .

Read more...

I was reading about the book "E-Myth: Mastery" on Amazon and came across this review. As I was reading it, I thought about how applicable the reviewer's thoughts were when applied to website effectiveness and web design. So many user experiences contain too much information and bury their "gold". Worse yet, there may be little "gold" at all, but a lot of fluff. This not only hurts your classic marketing: identity (brand, imagery) - purpose (what you do) - unique selling proposition (why you're better and needed), it also hurts your usability and Search Engine Marketing or SEO. First, let's read the review. Then I'll explain the connection.

This book is a natural buy if you, like me, have read E-Myth: Revisited and absolutely loved it. This book is full of invaluable information, however, it suffers from the greatest flaw ever - it is the most annoying and painstaking read ever!!!!!!!

Let me give you an example of what I mean by rewriting my first paragraph in this book's style:

Read more...

This joke (after the jump) that my Dad sent to me has been around the Internet a few times, so it's not clear to me who wrote it, but it's worth a laugh. More importantly, what it shows is that sometimes we can get caught up in jargon and stop actually communicating with our markets. Much of what I do is help clients to think through how to cater to today's behaviors and speak in relevant language that engages rather than alienates their audience. After all, what you want to do is start a welcome dialog with your market, not impose your way of thinking on them. However, it is equally important to know when using evolving terms and tools are important to receptiveness of your audience.

Regardless of what methods you use to connect with your audiences, are you using the words that they will understand and will resonate with them, per audience?

Are you using industry terms that some of your market doesn't know? If this is necessary, then explain the terms to those who might not know them.  As an example, a company a few years ago called their blogging tools "online journals" because they felt that their market wouldn't understand "blog". However, "blog" was defining a new experience that much of the target audience picked up quickly. The company appeared out of step with the market. Could they have used the word "blog" effectively?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is about relevance between what you do, what you say that you do and the terms that your target audience searches with to find what you do. Are you optimizing around their words or only your own? Does your site obviously reinforce the words that helped someone find you to validate relevance?

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We want to be meaningful.

In order to form ongoing relationships with customers, we need to be meaningful in their lives. Do we fit what they care about today? Are we in their daily routine or at least fit there? Do we speak in their language or our own? On my home page, I tell the story of my daughter's college: "A new college delayed putting in sidewalks, but did plant grass in the center of campus. They waited until they saw where the students had worn down the grass and then put sidewalks there. Online Marketers (or any marketer) can sometimes get in the habit of "putting in the sidewalks" without taking the time to see where the paths go."

When I heard this, it clicked for me that marketing, offline or online, is really about seeing where the paths go and putting ourselves and our message along those behavioral paths in a language that our prospects can understand. What are our prospects paths?

Read more...