Will the Real Tech Community Please Stand Up

Our world today is diluted. The lines have blurred. Everyone has bought into this concept of community – that everyone has something for everyone and we’re one big happy family. Specifically, the concept of the “technology community” which is a term that has come to mean anyone who has a blog, uses social media or Twitter and engages online in some way or another.

Though this has been a trend that is akin to the frog happily boiling in an ever increasing pot of hot water, the reality struck me today as I saw this Wall Street Journal article about how Facebook and Zappos approach hiring. Facebook, of course, is the social networking platform that has become the largest social network on the planet and Zappos, the sexy company that was just acquired by Amazon and has made its name, not on selling shoes – its core business – but in its company culture and parties.

In the WSJ article, the writer begins with the statement, “For fast-growing technology start-ups, there are many approaches to employee hiring and retention.”

While Zappos is a great company, and their acquisition by Amazon (which is a technology company) certainly places them in the ranks of great Internet success stories, they are a glorified shoe store, using eCommerce, web marketing and buzz to execute on their core business. They are not a technology company.

This is not a pissing match over labels. If calling a company a technology company when they are not was harmless, I wouldn’t care. The reality is that it is a harmful trend that is hurting the real tech community. This is not about Zappos. This is about the hundreds of people who hang out on the social networks, using the technologies built by real technology companies and technologists, and who call themselves technologists because they use the tools.

Photo by rutty on Flickr

These are the people who go for job interviews that they are not qualified for hanging their hats on social media experience.

Being in social media does not make you part of the technology community.

The real technology community is made up of developers, I.T. architects, and even highly trained engineers with C.S. degrees. For the record, I have neither a C.S. degree or any degree at all. However, I have been slinging code for 10 years now and it continues to be my primary business, despite public speaking, book writing and social media engagements. I am a technologist. A marketer or a salesperson may be highly trained marketers or sales people, but they are not technologists in most cases.

Here are some thoughts. These are common. I’m not simply being a little over the top.

  • The most you know about memory leaks is when Firefox crashes. Do you know why? Can you debug it? Do you understand the concept of a memory leak and why it happens?
  • You don’t know how or why an API is important. If you have to ask what an API is, you’re not a technologist. You don’t have to know how to use it, but know what it is. If you don’t know why an API might be important, you’re also not a technologist.
  • Your evaluation of a good website is based on the UI and layout. Great design is important and great designers are hard to find. That doesn’t make them technologists. Though there are some who straddle both worlds extremely well. A website is not just a website because of the appearance. It’s about how data is used. Remember this video?

  • It doesn’t matter if a site is built in a compiled language (Compiled PHP, .NET, etc) or not. Yes it does. Why?
  • Your approach to business does not include principles of Object Orientation as understood by developers. OOP is huge with developers. Ask any Java, Ruby or Python developer. Can you apply these principles to business too? They do apply…
  • The most exposure you’ve had to XML is RSS. And at that, the most you’ve had is adding a feed to Google Reader.
  • Your idea of working for a web startup is as ‘community manager’. Yeah, there are some great community managers. They are people people, not technology people. Additionally, community managers are meant to be liaisons between users and developers. Stop calling yourself a tech person if you’re a glorified PR person.

Again, if this was simply a matter of labels, it would be no big deal. Social media expert? Go for it… Everyone is a social media expert. Entrepreneur? Unless you’re building the product yourself, you’re probably not a technologist. Businessperson? Sure. CEO material? Quite possibly. Don’t call yourself a technologist.

You’re HURTING us. This market is filled with people looking for work right now. And recruiters are out in force looking for the one person who can fill the role of two people and save their client money. So by you walking in the door and taking jobs you’re not qualified for simply because you can do some marketing, strategy and you know how to hack on a website, you’re hurting this industry of highly qualified, professional people.

Stop carpet-bagging on our industry and call yourself what you are. You are highly qualified marketers. You are highly qualified journalists. You are highly qualified business development people. You are not technologists.

Rules for Entrepreneurs – Avoid relying on a few whale customers

As you build your business the thing you need the most are those first customers. They are what provide you cash flow and a track record to win new customers. Getting the first few are the hardest because they are usually buying from you and believe in your ability to deliver. This is one of your greatest strengths, but over time, it can become one of your biggest liabilities. Let me explain…

Selling yourself is different from selling your business

As I mentioned, when starting a business there is probably just you and maybe a partner. Many people bring contracts and relationships from previous jobs that help jumpstart the business and gets the cash flow going. These customers are buying from you because they know you and your ability to deliver. This is great and is the way many companies start, but you are really just selling yourself and not selling your business. This is the habit you must break.

Within the first six months of your business you should be planning a major marketing and sales effort to expand your client base beyond your core relationships. This takes your business to the next level where people are looking at the business and not just buying from you. Still they are buying from you but you must have people that can manage the project and be ready to take the lead. This accomplishes two things:

  1. You have more time to continue selling and growing the business
  2. You do not become the “go to person” for every issue keeping the perception that they are buying from you

Whale customers are great to have in the beginning

As the business grows, you might be lucky enough to land some great big clients that provide a lot of revenue to help you expand. This is great and we should all be so blessed by winning these kinds of clients. However, what develops is the “90/10” rule – 10% of the clients provide 90% of the revenue. This could mean that 1 or 2 clients are keeping the company running and losing one of them would be catastrophic to the business. So you must do one key thing quickly – diversify.

You must diversify or your put your success in jeopardy

Diversification is hard for some companies. Many people get lazy and confident that they will never lose them. Trust me, I speak from experience, you will. It could be a change in management, your champion leaves to take another job, budget control moves to a different department that doesn’t know you and doesn’t see your value, or the company goes out of business. What I am trying to say is that anything could happen and it could happen at any time.

So what do you do? After I learned my first hard lesson, I applied this rule – for every whale client, I worked over a six month period to find 5-10 customers that matched their revenues so that over a two year period those whales went from 90% to 10-20% of your overall revenues. This gave us a greater sense of comfort so when we would lose one of those two whales, which we eventually did, we only had a dip in revenues and used our sales campaigns to pick up the slack and pick up a few new smaller customers to fill in the revenue gaps.

Are you in the “Whale Boat” right now?

Are you dealing with the same dilemma? What have you done to diversify your client base? What advice to you have for your fellow entrepreneurs?

Pescando con AdWords

Google AdWords ofrece una via eficiente y efectiva de publicitar nuestros productos a través del buscador de Google y su red publicitaria (SEM). Es particularmente efectivo para quienes tienen un presupuesto reducido o trabajan en un mercado demasiado saturado para optimizar (SEO). AdWords nos permite montar una campaña rápidamente y a un costo pre-determinado.

Pero al igual que cuando vamos de pesca, si queremos usar bien nuestro tiempo y sacar los peces más gordos, debemos pensar bien cada uno de los siguientes pasos:

1. Pescar en el lugar correcto

Original image by www.flickr.com/photos/seamusnyc/

Si vas a ir de pesca con tus amigos, quizás lo más importante es elegir el lugar correcto. No irías a pescar a tu bañera, o al río contaminado de tu ciudad, ni a una playa llena de bañistas en vacaciones. Dependiendo de lo que quieres sacar, irías a un buen lago repleto de truchas, a una playa solitaria o hasta al medio del ancho mar. Con Google AdWords es lo mismo… la idea es que sólo vean tus anuncios quienes estén interesados en ellos.

Google te ofrece tres herramientas importantes: limitar tu mercado geográficamente, limitar tu mercado a quienes buscan ciertas palabras claves y limitar tu oferta demográficamente.

Limitar tu mercado geográficamente:

Usando la herramienta de orientación geográfica, puedes limitar el mercado que verá tu anuncio sólo a aquellas búsquedas que se generen desde cierto país/ciudad/región y en cierto idioma. De esta manera puedes indicar que tu campaña solo la verán los habitantes de Argentina que hagan su búsqueda via google.com.ar.

Enfocar tu mercado con palabras claves:

Usando las herramientas de selección de palabras claves, escoges en cuáles búsquedas debe aparecer tu campaña. Si vendes “zapatos”, es inútil que tu anuncio aparezca cuando alguien busca “turismo de aventura.” Igualmente, si vendes “zapatos de lujo” no es muy eficiente mostrarle tu anuncio a quienes buscan “zapatos deportivos.”

Limitar tu oferta demográficamente:

Google ahora ofrece la posibilidad de limitar tu campaña a ciertos grupos demográficos (sexo y edad).

Usa estas tres herramientas para elegir el área de Internet en donde vas a lanzar tus redes y anzuelos.

2. Elegir bien la carnada y el anzuelo

Original image by www.flickr.com/photos/sookie/

El segundo paso en nuestro viaje de pesca es elegir el anzuelo y la carnada que vamos a utilizar. Una red sería más efectiva para pescar sardinas y una buena caña para sacar una aguja. Y tal parece que cada trucha o pavón tiene su mosca o carnada favorita. AdWords es igual: cuando nuestro mensaje está compitiendo contra otros quince en la pantalla (10 resultados de búsqueda y otros 5 AdWords, por lo menos) es de vital importancia que el cliente potencial haga click sobre nuestro anuncio y no el de nuestra competencia.

Y al igual que en la pesca podemos recoger y cambiar el anzuelo o carnada para ver cual funciona mejor, AdWords te ofrece una herramienta magnífica para comparar tus anuncios.

Siempre debes tener dos anuncios rotando para cada campaña. De esta forma puedes comparar la efectividad de ambos y escoger el mejor. Cuando sepas cual de los dos anuncios funciona mejor, descarta el que no funcionó y reemplázalo por uno nuevo y continua probando: la idea es ir siempre optimizando tus anuncios, adaptándote al mercado.

Al usar esta herramienta, es preferible manejarla manualmente y no dejar que Google optimice por nosotros, ya que Google tiende a optimizar muy rápido, con poca información. Pon tus anuncios a rotar 50/50 y haz cambios sólo cuando tengas suficiente data.

3. Recoger bien el pez

Imagen propiedad de cgranier

Una vez que el pez muerde el anzuelo es hora de recogerlo y es aquí cuando se pierden gran parte de los peces. ¿Estás preparado para capturar a tu cliente?

Es muy importante preparar un “landing page” (página de aterrizaje) adecuado: esta es la primera página que verá el cliente al llegar a tu website. Idealmente, esta página estará adecuada a cada campaña y no será simplemente el homepage de tu sitio. La idea es que el cliente potencial vea una página con información relevante a su búsqueda, mostrarle rápidamente lo que ofrecemos que le pueda interesar y comenzar una conversación con él, ya sea obteniendo su dirección de correo electrónico, ofreciendo información importante o comenzando una venta.

Por ejemplo, si vendes bienes raíces de lujo, el landing page debería mostrar información del proyecto y un campo para obtener la dirección de correo electrónico del visitante para luego comenzar un esfuerzo de venta personalizado. No te hace falta pedirle su teléfono, dirección, color favorito, mascota y año de graduación… Crea formularios fáciles de llenar y más personas los llenarán. Después que te ganes la confianza de cada cliente podrás obtener más información.

De igual forma si tu website es de comercio electrónico, crea un landing page que ayude al cliente potencial a conocer tu negocio, obtener la información que busca y tener la confianza de comprarte algo a ti.

Observa y aprende

Original image by www.flickr.com/photos/ellievanhoutte/

Si tienes la oportunidad de colocar un sistema de análisis de tráfico como Google Analytics en tu website, hazlo. Google Analytics se integra con AdWords para darte una imagen completa de tu experiencia de mercadeo: cuáles anuncios funcionan mejor, cuántos clientes llegaron a tu website a través de tus anuncios, desce cuáles websites llegaron, y -más importante aún- cuántos de ellos llenaron tus formularios, colocaron un pedido o se suscribieron a tu servicio.

Mientras AdWords te permite saber cuánto te costo cada click que trajo un visitante a tu website, la combinación con Google Analytics te permite saber cuántos de ellos iniciaron una relación con tu negocio (la tasa de conversión – conversion tracking): tu costo real por cliente.

Si quieres ayuda con tu próxima campaña de AdWords, puedes comunicarte conmigo via Twitter o a través de mi website.

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