Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

CATEGORY: Marketing

New Consulting Engagement – Block Six Analytics

Block Six Analytics Logo

It’s always been a dream of mine to work for an intern that I hired in the past…and now that dream has come true! I’m happy to announce that I’ll be helping out Block Six Analytics (B6A), a startup founded by fellow NYU Stern alum and ex-Marketing Intern of the Washington Capitals Adam Grossman, as a Sales Consultant. You can read the B6A blog post announcing our partnership here.

I hired Adam as a Marketing Intern in the summer of 2009 (how the tables have turned). One of the projects he worked on was valuation of the Capitals’ sponsorship assets, and B6A was founded shortly after that on the same premise. B6A’s software helps sports organizations clearly communicate the value of sponsorships by using a valuation model that demonstrates how targeted impressions generate new revenue for their partners. I’ll leverage my network to help Adam market and sell this software, among other software and services, to sports teams.

I’m looking forward to working with Adam again and helping him build his company!

New Partnership – Thorn Technologies

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 5.44.21 PMGreat news! I just entered into an agreement to work with a software development shop called Thorn Technologies, one of Baltimore Business Journal’s top ten fastest growing private companies!

Our engagement is really broad and will include strategy work for Thorn Tech clients, sales of current products, building of the Thorn Tech brand through content creation and social media, and potential collaboration on startup projects. This will be much more than just a consulting gig; it will be a true partnership.

Thorn Tech has extensive experience building consumer-facing mobile and web applications, but they also excel at building back-end enterprise software, which allows them to provide unique, end-to-end solutions for its clients. Thorn Tech’s expertise fits really well with my experience designing and developing mobile apps and working with enterprise apps like CRM and marketing automation software.

I first worked with Thorn Tech President Jeff Thorn while I was at the Washington Capitals. He was a subcontractor for Acuity Mobile (acquired by Navteq), whose SMS platform we used to deliver text messages to our fans. Jeff also built the Caps Fantasy Challenge, which was a fantasy game delivered over SMS, online, and mobile web. Jeff is a really smart guy and he’s also a fellow Lehigh University alum!

I’m really looking forward to a long, mutually beneficial relationship with Jeff and his team. And if anyone needs software development work, please let me know!

Move Fast, Move Slow

I think there are situations in work and life where you should move fast and others where you should take it slow (or “quickly” and “slowly” if you want to be grammatically correct). My sometimes conflicting thoughts are below.

Things to do fast:

  1. Workout / run – fast, meaning “high intensity” – it’s more effective and you get it over with quickly. Double win!
  2. Things that aren’t imperative to your goal – you should consider outsourcing or not doing these things at all.
  3. Think – Malcolm Gladwell has some things to say about this.
  4. Address a problem – nip it in the bud and move on.
  5. Live life – you only live once (#YOLO!), make it worth it, no regrets.

Things to do slow:

  1. Eat – enjoy your food. I am terrible at this.
  2. Write a note to someone important to you – be thoughtful and check your speling 🙂
  3. Think (when it comes to analysis and numbers) – you can get lost quickly, and a decimal point in the wrong spot can be disastrous!
  4. Hire – my shortcomings on this here. Take it slow and make sure the fit is right.
  5. Find your soulmate – again, take it slow and make sure the fit is right. Don’t settle. It took me eight (!) years to realize who my soulmate is and I couldn’t be happier.
  6. Live life – it takes time to find happiness and/or satisfaction. Enjoy the ride.

What else can you add to these lists?

Facebook – Making You More Social, Less Personal?

There was a great article in the NY Times the other day about how some people are refusing to sign up for or are unsubscribing from Facebook, stating how “it’s a little unhealthy” and how they’re not “calling their friends anymore.” I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s unhealthy, but I do agree that Facebook has had two profound effects – making people much more social but at the same time much less personal.

As we all know, Facebook allows everyone to stay in touch with people they may not otherwise stay in touch with and wish people Happy Birthday when they otherwise would have never remembered. But it has also allowed users to think that someone typing “Happy Birthday Dude!” is a personal birthday greeting. I’m totally guilty of this but don’t feel too good about doing it (I bet I see way fewer “Happy Birthdays” on Facebook when June 9th rolls around.) Back in the day, giving the birthday guy or girl a physical birthday card, making a phone call or even sending an email was the way to go. Now it’s just typing a few letters in the upper right corner of a website.

Has Facebook changed the way you behave toward your friends and made you more social but less personal? Let me know what you think. Feel free to comment here, tweet me @mikewchan, or post to my Facebook page, but if you want to really talk about it, maybe you should call me.  😉

More Important in Marketing – Data or Creativity?

I read an article on Clickz yesterday called “Data Geek or Creative Genius?”  (http://bit.ly/nTPQxn) that touched upon the argument of which is more important in marketing today – creative ideas or data-driven decisions. The bottom line is that these aspects must work in synchronization to produce effective marketing that drives business results. Yeah, it’s kind of a cop out (like saying “it depends”) but it’s true.

I wrote about this topic in the SportsBusiness Journal in 2009 (http://bit.ly/ro61gj) and have reposted the article below.

What are your thoughts on this? It would be great to hear from marketers from both sides of the spectrum!

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Let science of marketing drive creative solutions

Published September 21, 2009

Greg Economou’s article (SportsBusiness Journal, Aug. 31-Sept. 6) about the art and science of selling was spot on, and I believe that this philosophy could and should be applied to marketing in sports as well.

Sports marketing is many times inextricably defined by big events, captivating advertising, eye-catching design of signage and collateral, and sometimes simply slapping a logo on a product. Of course, these artful elements of the marketing mix are imperative to success, but the science of marketing should be applied to drive decisions regarding these creative components.

The first scientific element of marketing is market and consumer insight (or more boringly named “market research”). To start, properties, agencies, and brands must have a detailed, thorough understanding of their fan base, including demographic characteristics and psychographic/behavioral traits, in addition to analysis of the competition and the overall economy. Additionally, companies must use research to understand what their fans think about the positioning of the brand in order to properly develop effective advertising, engaging design, and exciting events. For example, Red Bull understands that their core audience is typically young and involved in high-energy activities; thus they allocate their sports marketing funds to extreme sports such as surfing, motorbiking and flying and highlight these activities in their advertising to really connect with their consumers and differentiate from their competition. I highly doubt you’ll see the Red Bull logo on the Pro Bowlers Association sponsor roster any time soon nor will you see Red Bull’s primary competition leapfrog them in market performance.

Second is testing and measurement to drive decision-making about the use of marketing assets. This can be broken down into two types of measurement: testing of key performance indicators (KPI) and measuring financial performance, or return on investment (ROI). 

Regarding testing KPIs — let’s say you’ve just designed a few handsome e-mail templates to send out to your fan base. Everyone in your organization looked at a few of your designs, threw in their 2 cents, and chose design No. 1 to launch. Art had great influence in the decision, but where’s the science? Instead of using just a few insiders’ eyes to choose, you can use your fans’ eyes to select the best design. Most e-mail programs have A/B testing capability, where you can send multiple designs to different segments of customers, see which designs resonate more by comparing open rates, click-throughs, etc., and select the best template based on these KPIs. Testing has been historically applied in direct marketing, but isn’t used enough in the digital sports world, where it is much easier and cost-effective. This can be applied to Web sites, landing pages, microsites and most other digital assets. 

In today’s economy, ROI is a hot topic, and why not? Who wouldn’t want to know how much money you’ll make from sponsoring a property or holding an event and compare that to the cost of your initiative? Bank of America stated that for every sponsorship dollar they spend, they obtain $10 in revenue and $3 in earnings. With their huge stable of sponsorships, they’ve obviously put a lot of work into measurement, and rightfully so (after all, those TARP funds didn’t grow on trees). Though measuring ROI isn’t easy, any kind of financial measurement will help sell initiatives to upper management. 

I’m not downplaying the art of marketing, as it’s clearly very important; all I’m saying is that the science of marketing should be the driver of a lot of creative decisions. A thorough understanding of research, testing and measurement will help sports marketers become more effective in executing creative ideas.

Mike Chan
Washington, D.C.

Get Your Preak On, Kegasus

Like a lot of people, I don’t give a crap about horse racing. But when the Preakness comes up with creative yet controversial ad campaigns like “Get Your Preak On” in 2010 and “Kegasus” this year, I’m paying attention. And when attendance grows from 77,850 in 2009, to 95,760 in 2010 (+23%, but partially because of beer was allowed on the infield again) to 107,398 this year (+12), this makes a marketer pretty happy.

The Sport of Kings is dying and the Preakness understands that. They identified the need to stop “doing what’s always been done” – catering to old people who wear funny hats and drink bourbon – and targeted a younger, more diverse crowd who chugs beer. They’ve caused an uproar among critics and horse racing purists, yet they’ve increased attendance and have become relevant once again. This is an amazing example of understanding the situation and being proactive to address it, even if it ruffles a few feathers. I can’t wait to see what the marketing folks at Pimlico come up with next year.

The (Artificial) Intelligence to Adjust

Check out this article in Business Week. The idea is cool – teach a computer how to read stock market conditions and adjust on the fly to produce steady returns. And the founder is pretty buff.

I’ve always wondered if this can be done for advertising media buying. Put in a bunch of channels (print publications, online and mobile sites and ad networks, radio stations, outdoor, etc.), enter some objectives to achieve, and let the computer optimize away. Do you know of anyone working on this? I’d imagine Horizon Media and those big media buying agencies have something like this.

The idea itself is pretty fundamental, whether or not a computer with artificial intelligence is involved – execute an initiative or project, see if it meets the objectives you’ve set, adjust accordingly and continually improve. But can it be done in real time? And how do you know it’s actually optimized?

Would you work for (or with) the enemy?

Fandom for a favorite sports team might be one of the strongest emotional bonds in the world. But is it strong enough to get in the way of a paycheck?  So my question for those working in the sports industry is, would you be able to work for or with your favorite team’s archrival?

What made me think about this? When watching SportsCenter earlier in the week, I saw an image of LeBron James, whose fandom for the Yankees is well-known (but in my mind, pretty dubious), wearing a Red Sox hat. I then learned that he reached a agreement with Fenway Sports Management to work with his LRMR firm to handle his marketing and sponsorship. Though LeBron called this a purely business decision, and may be a very good one, it still got me thinking about this “working for the enemy” concept.

I then thought back to the time when I was in business school, working hard in trying to break into the sports industry, and I interviewed for a summer internship with the Philadelphia Eagles (I’m a big Giants fan).  Though I got rejected for the internship (by who is now my current boss at the Caps, so it worked out) and never had to make the decision, I was seriously considering how my fandom for the Giants would affect this process. Kind of crazy.

I also thought back to the times when I was asked if I would ever take a job with the Boston Red Sox (I’m a big Yanks fan, so the job would have to be huge for me to take it).  I also thought about my Caps colleagues who are fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins and what they go through. 

Some rivalries are bigger than others, and some fans are bigger fans for a team than others, but I think it’s an interesting question to ask. Am I crazy to think that fandom for a sports team could get in the way of a paycheck? What are your thoughts?

Accounting for Groupon

In the class that I teach at Georgetown, we assigned a midterm where our students had to build a media plan to promote a local sports team. Costs were assigned to various marketing channels, e.g placing banner ads on a local website cost $5K, building a Facebook page costs $10K, etc.  One of the students then asked how much it would cost to run a promotion on Groupon, which got me thinking:

How exactly do you account for the “cost” of using Groupon and other social coupon sites?

The beauty of Groupon, LivingSocial, and other coupon sites is that there is no upfront advertising fee paid by the company offering the deal, and running the promotion leads to increased exposure to new customers, upshot in foot traffic to retail stores and of course incremental revenue, thus garnering an ROI that is essentially infinity. But is that totally accurate?

For companies selling distressed, perishable inventory (such as sports teams, where an unsold seat for a game on Wednesday has no value on Thursday), all revenue is incremental and the ROI pretty much is infinity. But what if the company is a retailer who essentially sells their product for 25% of list price on Groupon, but may have sold it later for full price?

Let’s say company A sells widgets at $100 list price. If they sold 100 of these widgets at full price, the revenue will be $10000. But if they run a Groupon promo and sell 100 widgets at 50% off ($50), the total revenue garnered by the deal is $5000, and Groupon and company A will typically split that revenue down the middle, so company A nets $2500. How is this loss in profit margin accounted for on the books? Should you count that $7500 profit margin loss as the advertising cost (rhetorical question, I know that’s wrong)? How can you determine how many widgets you would have sold without Groupon to predict that profit margin loss?

Kinda makes you think, doesn’t it? Does anyone know how retailers who have used Groupon do their accounting? Am I thinking about this correctly or am I off base? Let me know!