We’re missing a piece of the conversation when talking about the death of television

TV is dying a slow and painful death… not unlike a TV death! (haha)

I’m not saying that TV will disappear completely, nor will it vanish any time soon (a belief supported by an optimistic report from Forrester) but TV viewership is declining and will continue to decline because it is being replaced by other forms of video entertainment. Basically, you can watch a bunch of stuff online (free on YouTube, especially if you’re not too picky, or paid through a service like Netflix, or direct from networks who post full episodes on their sites).

Heck, the only reason I still watch TV and subscribe to cable is because some of the stuff I watch isn’t available on the web (specifically NASCAR — I love NASCAR) and I own a big TV. For all other entertainment, it can be watched on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

The conversation is usually centered around the following benefits:

  • The entertainment is on-demand instead of when it is broadcast
  • Viewers aren’t stuck to whatever channels their cable-provider gives them
  • You end up paying very little or nothing at all, compared to cable or satellite
  • Shows can be watched without commercials (or with commercials fast-forwarded) to reduce or eliminate sales pitches

But I think there’s something else missing from the conversation when we talk about how online video is replacing television as a medium of entertainment. I think there is an overlooked benefit that people love but maybe don’t realize they love.

It’s this…

Television shows are half an hour or an hour long. All of them. Even shows that are longer are chopped into two-parters.

But I don’t always have thirty or sixty minutes to watch a show. Even if I fast forward through the commercials in my PVR, I don’t always have 25 minutes or 50 minutes to watch a show. Sometimes, I have 5 or 10 minutes and I want to be entertained.

THAT is the overlooked value of online video content. It’s sometimes provided in smaller, digestible pieces, allowing you to watch what you want, when you want… for as long as you have.

I’m not just talking about chopping up an hour long show into 10-minute segments from one commercial break to another (which is how I watched the show The $treet on Youtube). I mean that video producers are starting to produce good content in shorter segments. They’re breaking away from the half-hour and hour-long formats of television and providing viewers with whatever length of show that fits their needs. 20 minutes? 15 minutes? 10 minutes? 5 minutes? 2 minutes? Whatever time you have, there’s something on YouTube to entertain you.

Here’s an example of a great video that is 4 minutes and 39 seconds long. Short, digestible, yet entertaining. (And very well produced, to boot).

There are tons of these kinds of things on YouTube — short videos of varying length for every taste and interest and genre preference. You can get whatever you want to fill the time you have.

I think this is the secret killer of television. Yes, there is the convenience factor of watching something any time on any device whenever you want. Those are relevant arguments. But the one we’re overlooking is length of content — we’ve broken away from the 12 and the 6 on the clockface.

Everything that can be metered should be metered

As with many other parts of North America, we’re in the middle of a heat wave. I love it because I’m usually very cold so this heat wave for me is probably what most people feel as a normal temperature.

Not surprisingly, the heat wave created a surge in demand for electricity to run air conditioners and there was a major blackout to a large part of the city. In my neighborhood, it lasted 6 hours for repair crews to get things back on line.

It reminded me of an article I wrote recently about, which described a Philadelphia Energy Company that can control the air conditioners among enrolled houses so that air conditioners in homes throughout the neighborhood can cycle rather than run continuously. This is a smart way to keep houses cool while automatically managing the power demand.

Our power is metered – the energy company reads how much power we use and they bill us at specific rate. On my bill, it’s just one rate, a price per kilowatt. But here’s the thing: Energy is a commodity and it doesn’t always cost the same thing to make one unit of energy as it costs to make another. For example, when demand is high during the day, costs should be higher. When demand is lower during the night, costs should be lower. How hard would it be to add that one more element into our power bill’s metering to measure not just how much power we used… but when we used it?

The same goes for water. Water is supposedly a scarce resource but if you look around my neighborhood, we’re all watering our lawns and filling our swimming pools and washing our cars, and we’re charged the same whether we’re turning on the tap during the day or at night. How hard would it be to measure when we get our water and charge more during the day.

The same goes for car insurance. Per-mile insurance already exists in some areas but it’s not widespread. It could be… and it should be. After all, it makes more sense for the person who is on the road all the time to pay more insurance than the person who barely uses their car. (That’s not the case where I live. I pay the same as someone else who drives every day even though I might use my car once a week).

The same goes for internet usage. I’m ALWAYS on the internet and I should pay more to access it than someone who is never on the internet.

Now that I’m on this rant, why not do the same thing for my curbside trash collection?

The concept of metering isn’t foreign to us. We use a form of it when we use our mobile devices – sometimes a service provider will give discounts for calls made after a certain time (during off-peak hours). Heck, my parents still call me after 6pm because they used to get a discount waaaay back when the phone companies gave one. Even the fuel in our car is a type of “metering” – a usage charge for the amount that we travel. Toll roads are another form of metering. So is sales tax.

Everything that can be metered should be metered. The technology is there (maybe it’s not integrated into every household power meter, for example, but the technology exists). It will benefit service providers and utility companies by helping them to level out demand. And if consumers can tie their actions to a specific dollar amount, there might be an increased motivation to save water, throw out less, run the dishwasher when everyone goes to bed, or drive less.

Why I’m okay with the Oxford English Dictionary adding LOL, OMG, IMHO, etc.

The Oxford English Dictionary recently announced that it is adding several words to its pages, including initialisms that we typically associate with email and texting: LOL, OMG, IMHO, TMI, BFF. (There are plenty of news stories about it but this one is a brief overview).

The reception to this news — at least among my peers — hasn’t been positive. Some feel that it’s annoying. Others feel that it’s a sure sign of the end of the world.

But I’m okay with it. Here’s why:

We tend to think of the dictionary as the golden standard of language (especially the Oxford English Dictionary!). We turn to the dictionary to look up a word or its meaning, or to ensure that we are using a word properly. Thus, the dictionary takes on a role of being an impeccable reference tool and the standard by which we measure language. (And, we tend to extend that role assignment by holding up the dictionary as our standard of intellectual sophistication, thereby forcing us to conclude that we are decaying intellectually because these recent initialisms have been added).

The dictionary should be a golden standard of language. But the dictionary has an additional role that we don’t consider: It’s a portrait of today’s culture. It’s a slice of now.

That makes it tricky for the dictionary people: They need to create a resource that is not only impeccable as a language reference, but they also have to deal with the messiness of today’s language usage. If dictionaries were only the golden standard of language, words would rarely change. If dictionaries were only a slice of now, we would not be able to trust them to tell us how to use words.

An example would be a word once used to describe African-Americans. You know the word I’m thinking of. At one point in life, it was acceptable to use that word. (Socially acceptable, I mean, not morally acceptable). If the dictionary was only a golden standard and nothing else, it would continue to define that word today as a socially acceptable word. Fortunately, we’ve progressed socially, and the dictionary has altered the word’s meaning to reflect modern sensibilities. Okay, that’s an extreme example and there are many other less controversial words to which this has also happened. Basically, our language would still be Shakespearean if we only used the dictionary as a golden standard and not as a slice of now.

So I’m okay that the OED has added LOL, OMG, IMHO, TMI, and BFF to its pages. I don’t think it highlights the intellectual decay of modern youth. Rather, I think the dictionary is giving us a slice of now. Encyclopedias are facing the same challenges today. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s nothing new.

How your sales funnel can predict the success (or failure) of your business

A sales funnel is a roadmap of the relationship you have with your contacts, and the journey the two of you take from Audience to Evangelist. But a sales funnel isn’t JUST a roadmap. It’s also a crystal ball that can predict the success or failure of your business.

As your contacts move through each stage of your sales funnel, some will drop off because they don’t feel that your product or service can help them. But many will continue on through your sales funnel and ultimately buy from you.

As those contacts move from one stage to the next in your sales funnel, what they do and how long it takes them will act as a fortune teller for your business:

Start by figuring out your sales funnel ratios. How many contacts are in each stage?

Then, figure out how long an average contact takes to get from your Audience stage to become a customer.

With these two numbers, you have a very useful way to predict how your business will do in the short-term future.

We’ll use some really simple numbers to illustrate how your ratios will help predict your business.

Let’s say you have 10,000 Audience members.
Of those Audience members, 1,000 become Leads.
Of those Leads, 100 become Prospects.
Of those Prospects, 10 become a customer.
Of those Customers, 1 becomes an Evangelist.
So, your ratio is 10000:1000:100:10:1.

Using this number, you can predict what would happen in your business if the only thing you did was double the number of Audience members. Assuming all else remains equal, your numbers would increase overall to 20000:2000:200:20:2. Double Audience means double everything!

By keeping tabs on this number, you can observe how slight changes in your business impact your sales: Let’s say that you had a ratio of 10000:1000:100:10:1 and then you made some changes in your Leads stage marketing and in your Prospect stage. Then you look at your numbers again and they look like this: 10000:600:120:12:1. This tells you that whatever you did in your Leads stage is hurting your sales funnel (driving the number of Leads down from 1000 to 600) but whatever you did in your Prospect stage is actually very good (because your Prospects should have dropped to 60, since the Leads dropped to 600, but they actually increased slightly).

So, you end whatever you are doing in the Leads stage and you increase whatever you are doing in the Prospect stage!

These ratios help you to know how changes to specific stages impact your business. This helps you to know how changes earlier in your sales funnel will impact the number of customers you have.

Duration is the amount of time that a contact takes to go from Audience member to Evangelist.

Here’s an example from my own business. As a business writer, I not only write about sales funnels but I also write marketing and sales content for businesses. And I discovered early in my career that it took an average of 2 weeks for a Lead to become a Customer. I knew that active Lead generation would result in Customers almost exactly 2 weeks down the road.

So, in order to know how much Lead generation I needed to do today, I just looked at my calendar 2 weeks from today and figured out how much time I had to give to clients. Then I performed various Lead generation and Prospecting activities, and sure enough, I had the right amount of clients at the right time.

The reverse was true, too: If I didn’t do any Lead generation, I would have a lot of spare time on my hands 2 weeks down the road. So, knowing the duration of your sales funnel helps you to know how much business you’ll have in the future based on your Audience members today.

Running a business is like juggling — there are so many things to keep moving. Having the ability to predict your success based on how many people are at each stage in your sales funnel, and based on how long they take to get through your sales funnel, gives you a serious advantage over your competition. Here are a few highlights:

  • A predictable business lets you invest wisely to build capacity so you can handle more and more customers.
  • An entrepreneur that knows what business is going to be like down the road can spend less time worrying and more time serving Customers.
  • An entrepreneur that can accurate predict the amount of business coming down the pipe can optimize the entire business for greater profitability.
  • A business that is that predictable can be set to autopilot faster and easier than a business that is unpredictable.

I’ve only listed a few of the many benefits that accurate sales funnel predictions offer.

Get to know your sales funnel ratio and sales funnel duration!

Why sales funnel strategy is going to be a big trend in 2011

In the past decade (plus a little bit), the internet has created a universe of opportunity for new and old businesses to become marketing machines. This has been good… but it has also been bad.

In pre-internet days, businesses would think up some marketing ideas, have them created by professionals, and rely on more traditional methodologies to get the word out: Flyers were mailed; coupons were handed out; advertisements were published. These efforts were expensive, time consuming, and usually required the skills of an outside expert (to design and/or to publish).

Now, anyone can start a business and any business owner can drive traffic to their site using a variety of web-based marketing activities (like blogging or article-writing) and techniques (like SEO). They can do it themselves quickly and affordably.

This is advantageous — because it blows the doors wide open for anyone to become an entrepreneur — it has also had some nasty repercussions:

Do-it-yourself marketing has led to entrepreneurs trading quality for quantity and spamming search engines and inboxes and Twitter streams with volumes of content. Even businesses that market legitimately (that is, they don’t spam. Rather, they create quality content that adds value for the reader) need to achieve a certain quantity of marketing to get the job done.

On top of volume is another reality that people don’t realize: Businesses change and markets change but content posted online can outlive those changes. So if you create a series of articles and point those articles to a page on your site, then take that page down, those articles no longer provide the benefit they once offered. (I’m definitely guilty of this one!)

There’s a third factor in this new reality of “DIY marketing”. New marketing techniques crop up almost daily. When I started writing (nearly two decades ago) the internet wasn’t on my radar. It wasn’t on very many people’s radar at all! Then, over the years, the web arrived and along came new ideas about how to market your business: Websites then ebooks then blogs then articles… Heck, just a few years ago, no one had heard of Twitter. Now it is THE darling of social media. It seems like a new way of marketing your business is arriving daily.

You can probably imagine what happens when you combine these three things together: A “requirement” of quantity + an ever-changing business environment + a constant flood of new marketing opportunities = An over-abundance of marketing is published and it is helpful for a brief season, but then it ceases to be helpful.

What is needed is sales funnel strategy to solve the problem: Businesses need to take one more step before they start flooding the web with marketing. (Or, if they have already started, they need to pause and revisit their strategy). In doing so, businesses will find that they will spend less on marketing but quickly achieve a more profitable result.

Sales funnel strategy will reduce the need for a volume of work and will actually make a lesser quantity of marketing content more effective. Sales funnel strategy will remain effective for longer than marketing that wasn’t applied to any sort of strategy, helping businesses stay competitive even though they are evolving. And, Sales funnel strategy will help businesses discern which marketing opportunities are right for them and which ones are unnecessary wastes of time.

Because of the economy being what it is (and what it was just a year or two ago), I think businesses are looking to cut back on expenses but increase the effectiveness of, well, everything they do. On top of that, I suspect that entrepreneurs are getting tired of having to race from one marketing technique to another just because everyone else is doing it. Entrepreneurs want to get back to basics and work on the parts of their business that can generate results.

So sales funnels and sales funnel strategy will increase in importance in the year(s) to come as businesses pull back from the frenetic pace that once was a DIY requirement.