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Free Advice on Paid Content

Urban Dictionary defines a paywall as “the techy part of a web system that makes you pay dosh to get to the goodies.” Huh?

Publishers desperately want to monetize their digital goodies. Their futures depend on transporting precious readers from print to pixels. And, the dosh they’re getting from advertisers and subscribers continues to dwindle.

Many are turning to paywalls. Across the planet, publishers are experimenting with metered paywalls, online subscriptions, pay-per-view, try-before-you-buy, micropayments, and combined print/digital product bundles. Some models are proving successful. Some are not. Paywalls are erected and torn down daily.

There’s a lesson here for publishers who want to dip their digital toes in the waters of gated content commerce. It’s still early days for paywalls. No one knows for sure what pricing and product formats work best. And, what works for a niche publisher won’t necessarily work for a local or national publisher.  So … stay flexible; stay open; be ready to change quickly; and be sure to measure your results.

In a recent Oracle whitepaper featuring media giant and paywall pioneer Dow Jones, the advice for IT and editorial teams is: “Don’t hardcode any transaction or commerce solutions into your content management systems, and don’t build IT or editorial dependencies for dynamic price and product changes.”

Consultant David Smith offers similar advice in an interview with The Media Briefing. By taking a lesson from technology and marketing departments, says Smith, publishers should incorporate A/B testing into their paywall models. By presenting different options to audiences, publishers can see which one works best.

Simple and practical advice. But, to be successful, this approach requires solid and accurate measurement tools. It also requires a fast, flexible and frictionless content management environment. Audiences will always seek the path of least friction, and if they’re presented with complex sign-up procedures, they will bail out and seek free versions of the same content elsewhere.

Here at Atex, we make the “techy web systems” for news publishers and other content-rich industries. We provide the fast, flexible and open content management environment that companies rely on to underpin their free and paid publishing models. In fact, with the launch of our latest Atex Polopoly 10.8 platform, we became the first Web CMS supplier to include a built-in paywall as part of our standard product offering. Our paywall is designed to deliver the agility and openness that publishers demand as they experiment with different premium content models.

On October 24, 2013, Atex will be presenting a webinar on Paywall Best Practices. You can sign up for this timely and relevant session at http://www.atex.com/news-events/conference-events/paywall-best-practices-1.3058.

We’ve got lots of important content to share with you. And, it’s all absolutely free.

 

Pete Marsh Google+

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Ad Targeting 101: Eight Types of Targeting

Ad Targeting 101: Eight Types of Targeting

Let’s face it – online ads are not like magazine ads. The ads appearing in glossy magazines are visually attractive; they often enrich the reading experience; and sometimes they even smell nice.

As a general rule, people do not enjoy seeing ads on the websites they visit. Online ads are perceived as annoying, obtrusive, and sometimes even creepy.

Nevertheless, study after study shows that if people must see ads on the websites they visit, then targeted ads are preferred over untargeted ads. One recent survey conducted on behalf of the Digital Advertising Alliance found that 41% of respondents prefer online ads directed toward their interests, while only 16% said they prefer random ads. Other studies using eye-tracking technology proved that as many as 60% of users completely ignore untargeted ads appearing on the sites they visit often.

When an online ad is served up on a website, and that ad matches the visitor’s interests, it’s called “targeting.” Targeted advertising plays a major role in the integration of a publisher’s website and the ad servers, which are responsible for delivering, tracking and managing ad content in line with the publisher’s available inventory.

There are many flavors of targeting in the online world. As publishers consider the most effective ad serving software integration and targeting strategies for their media-rich businesses, here are the top eight (in no specific order) types of ad targeting available today:

 

1. Contextual Targeting

When you see an ad for a sporting goods store or an online ticket broker appearing on a sports news page, that’s contextual targeting. With contextual targeting, ads are served up deliberately on sites and pages containing content that is relevant to the advertised products or services. Contextual targeting is direct and intentional. An adjacent form of contextual targeting is known as “semantic targeting”, where text mining and sentiment analysis technologies are used to target ads that are appropriate to a web page’s meaning, point-of-view or underlying sentiment.


2. Behavioral Targeting

With behavioral targeting, ads are served up based on the interests of the website visitor. These interests can be stated or declared by the visitor (e.g. during the site registration process) or they can be inferred from the visitor’s browsing behavior, previous sites visited, pages visited, content viewed, clicks, searches executed, purchases made, etc. When that same sporting goods or online ticket ad shows up hours later while the visitor is navigating an unrelated website, that’s behavioral targeting. With contextual targeting, there is a direct association between an ad and the content that surrounds it. With behavioral targeting, the visitor’s prior online activity determines which ads will be served up and when, with only an indirect correlation to the content appearing alongside the ad.


3. Audience Targeting

Audience targeting is designed to match ads to groups of people who are most likely to be interested in the products or services the advertiser is selling. Various software and data analysis methods are used to categorize people into demographic, geographic, behavioral, contextual, interest-based and intent-based segments. These segments allow advertisers to find and target specific audiences. An interesting (and relatively new) aspect of audience targeting is technographic segmentation, which categorizes audiences on the basis of the communication devices they own and their usage patterns, including their shared attitudes toward consumer and business software, hardware, and a host of entertainment technologies.


4. Demographic Targeting

Demographic targeting, as its name implies, targets ads to people based on demographic information such as their gender, age range, income, ethnicity, etc. The data for demographic targeting typically comes from visitor-supplied site registration information or from data that’s inferred as a result of the device being used for browsing, IP audience zone, etc. (The IP Zone initiative is a demographic database that maps online traffic into qualified, target-ready audiences, yet is also committed to protecting user privacy.)


5. Geographic Targeting

Geographic targeting allows advertisers to target an ad to specific visitors based on their location – including country, city, postal code, and other locale information. Like demographic targeting, the data for geographic targeting comes from both visitor-declared information (e.g. during site registration) and from inferred methods.


6. Keyword Targeting

Very simply, keyword targeting is all about targeting content that contains specific keywords. Twitter recently introduced keyword targeting for advertising, so visitors now see “Promoted Tweets” based on topics or key phrases they have tweeted about. And, as everyone knows, the granddaddy of keyword targeting is Google, which has turned keyword-based search ads into a multi-billion dollar advertising business.


7. Time-Based Targeting

Time-based targeting enables advertisers to serve up an ad to visitors at specific times of day and/or on specific days of the week. Borrowing a phrase from the broadcast industry, time-based targeting is also known as “day-parting,” where the day is divided into several parts and a different type of television or radio programming is appropriate for airing content during that time of day.


8. Emotional Targeting

Instead of serving up targeted ads on the basis of a visitor’s online activities, emotional targeting uses new technology to recognize the user’s facial expressions, speech patterns and even body movements. With emotional targeting, a person’s mood can be detected and collected by client devices such as smartphones, gaming consoles, workstations and laptops. Think of Microsoft’s Kinect and how it uses a motion sensor to identify speech and gestures. That’s the idea behind emotional targeting.

 

In addition to these eight primary ad targeting techniques, there are also some re-targeting methods (e.g. search retargeting, site retargeting and creative retargeting), which enable advertisers to serve ads to visitors who fail to click on – or convert – the first time a targeted ad is presented. We’ll cover the topic of retargeting in more detail in an upcoming blog.

For additional information on how Atex Advertising integrates with the industry’s leading digital ad servers for targeting, delivering and managing all multi-channel ad types, please contact info@atex.com or see our latest press release at http://www.atex.com/news-events/press-releases/atex-launches-ad-server-integration-with-adswizz-audio-ad-serving-platform-1.3025.

 

Acknowledgement to the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) Data Usage and Control Primer published in July 2013 (www.iab.net) for providing an updated list of the latest ad targeting methodologies.

Pete Marsh Google+

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Audience Embracement™ – taking your customer relationships to the next level

You’ve canvassed, contacted and courted your desired audience members. You’ve showered them with targeted prose and personalized promises. You’ve fed them cookies that you baked yourself and some that were made by others. You believe you’ve made a good impression. And, you sincerely hope you haven’t crossed that fine online line between dating and stalking … between engaging and obtrusive.

It’s time to start thinking about Audience Engagement 2.0 or what I will call “Audience Embracement.” Audience Embracement can be defined as an advanced relationship between you and your audience that is characterized by four things:

  1. A deep – or deeper – understanding of your audience’s needs and interests
  2. An ability to deliver to your audience an experience that amazes, delights and is better than the experience offered by other suitors
  3. A commitment (yes, commitment!) to action, with the understanding that engagement without action is just a prolonged courtship and will not be tolerated for long
  4. Delivery of a more efficient, less complicated and generally superior quality of life for your audience.

A common theme in Audience Embracement is relevancy. Content may be king; context may be queen; but relevancy rules. Even the venerable Content Marketing Institute defines “content marketing”’ as follows:

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Audience Embracement puts relevancy at the core of your audience relationship. Audience members are almost always willing to trade privacy for relevancy. Besides, targeting without relevancy is just plain creepy. This is where so many Audience Engagement 1.0 retargeting strategies have failed. Think about the last time you searched for a pair of shoes or wedding rings online, and how shoe ads or ads for honeymoon vacations kept popping up on almost every website you visited thereafter.

Under an Audience Embracement model, targeting is based on a deep understanding of your audience interests, intent and actionable insights. This understanding is gained through a continual process of collecting, semantically enriching and fusing together all sorts of audience data, including demographics and other segmentation criteria. It also includes – and this is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship – the ability for the audience to opt-out whenever the collection process is felt to be getting too personal or too intrusive.

In short, Audience Embracement is built upon trust. Trust leads to credibility. Credibility gives added value to relationships and helps to build brand equity. And, who can argue that trust isn’t vitally important in all our customer and interpersonal relationships?

OK, so now here comes the pick-up line.

Atex happens to be in the Audience Embracement business. Our Atex Enreach product provides web publishers with tools to collect, enrich and segment audience data, and to sell targeted audience campaigns and guaranteed ad placements programmatically. Atex Enreach is a SaaS platform that is designed to simplify and increase the value of premium advertising through direct sales automation and real-time audience intelligence, actionable insight and advanced targeting.

At the risk of belaboring the relationship metaphor, CMS Wire, reporting on the Atex Enreach nuptials, said, “The combined product marries Atex’s strengths in content, subscription and core ad workflow management with Enreach’s audience-data intelligence.”

For more information about Atex Enreach, please write to info@atex.com or request our datasheet.

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Coveting and Cultivating Your Mobile Audience Part One: Writing for Tiny Screens

Coveting and Cultivating Your Mobile Audience Part One: Writing for Tiny Screens

Media companies around the world are discovering that after launching mobile-specific versions of news websites, a healthy percentage of their mobile users are under 30 years of age. Younger readers, often with more disposable income than their elders, represent a powerful new demographic channel for advertisers and audiences alike.

So, with these younger, upperwardly-mobile mobile users in mind, here are some tips for writing most effectively for this cherished audience segment.

First things first. Good writing is good writing. Period. Writing for mobile is akin to developing software in the days of severely limited programmable memory and available disk space. The focus must be on tight editing and efficiency. There’s no space to waste. With this basic premise in mind, here are five mobile writing rules for your consideration:

1.  Provide maximum information with minimum words.
Make every word count. Cut out the fluff and get to the point. Use short, tight sentences and remove every superfluous word.

2.  Create attention-grabbing titles.  
Mobile audiences are, by definition, on-the-go audiences. You only have a second or two to catch their interest on their little screens. So, your headlines should be as tight and efficient as your text. Keep your titles brief, relevant and descriptive. Avoid jargon. And, aim for a length of 65-70 characters max to avoid truncation.

3.  Focus on strong introductions and compelling summaries.
Mobile audiences have no time for introductions that dance around a topic. So, just get to it. Don’t worry about “setting the stage” in your introduction. You’ve created an attention-grabbing title, now craft a punchy and engaging summary that compels the reader forward.

4.  Use the medium to benefit your message.
Some mobile devices – especially smartphones and tablets – are optimized for images. Take advantage of these visual capabilities by using graphics and images to complement your writing. One recent study on Twitter found that tweets with visuals received over 150 more retweets than those without visuals. Similarly, posts on StumbleUpon that included visuals got dramatically more shares than text-only posts.

5.  Lists and links are the lifelines of an effective mobile story.
Mobile readers love lists. Ordered or unordered lists; it doesn’t matter. Lists are succinct and easy to read. They clearly show the reader where one point ends and another begins. This makes them ideal for scanning or browsing. Many people scan before they read anyway, and this is especially true among mobile users, who quickly try to determine whether it’s worth reading the entire article. Recent surveys have also shown that mobile users are inherently suspicious readers. They will question an author’s credibility if any embedded links do not relate to the topic. So, make sure that any and all links are highly relevant, and that they actually work.

Well, I have already exceeded the recommended 500-word rule for effective blogging. So, I will close here by letting you know that our next “Coveting and Cultivating Your Mobile Audience” blog posting will focus on mobile advertising tips and tricks.

In the meantime, if you have any additional suggestions on how to write and edit most effectively for mobile devices, we would love to hear from you.

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Time to Play Ball with Paywalls

Last month, the Reuters Institute Time to Play Ball with Paywalls for the Study of Journalism, based at Oxford University in England, surveyed 11,000 people in nine countries about where they get their news and how they consume it. The study found that twice as many people are paying for digital news content than a year ago. People are paying for digital news in almost every country surveyed, with the highest numbers seen in Brazil, Italy, Spain, Japan, and France.

In every country, older people are most reluctant to pay for digital news. By contrast, 25-34 year olds in all nations surveyed are the most willing to accept paid-for digital content.

As publishers experiment with different paywall models, it is interesting that the Reuters study found notable differences in payment strategies across all countries. Varying models include metered paywalls, time-based access to premium content, freemium, glass, tease, and combinations of online-only or bundled subscription license models.

In countries like the United States and Denmark, paid subscriptions for digital news is most common. In some European countries (e.g. Spain, France, Italy) paywall access for one day, single articles, or a single-app purchase is predominant.

The point is – in the near term – paywalls are here to stay. And, publishers will continue to test different paywall strategies to find the one (or ones) that work most effectively for their businesses.

It is therefore becoming increasingly important for digital content management system vendors like Atex to include an embedded paywall as a core software component. With our latest Atex Polopoly Web CMS version 10.8 release, we are now the first vendor in the media industry to deliver a built-in paywall as part of our standard system.

When considering a premium content strategy, the content management aspect of your paywall needs to be fast, efficient and – above all – flexible. One key benefit of having a built-in paywall as part of your Web CMS is the flexibility to define products. Digital publishers need to be able quickly and easily configure products and product bundles. The paywall model that proves most successful with audiences can then be adopted for all products.

Winning paywall models should allow the sale of individual articles, and should support the concept of inheritance. For instance, every story in a specific section or department can be defined as part of a product bundle, and all articles in corresponding sub-sections will inherit these properties. By having a paywall that is integrated into the Web CMS, a publisher gains the dynamic ability to create premium combinations. Archived historical content, for example, can be made available on a pay-per view basis, while other types of content can be sold on a subscription-only basis.

The key here is “tweakability.” As a publisher, you should be able to define and refine the products that go behind your paywall, as well as the associated access control mechanisms. This includes online subscriptions (e.g. 30-day access to the Sports section); metered control (e.g. N free clicks before requiring payment for site access; or combined print/digital subscription packages.

On this last point, an excellent recent blog posting from Earl Wilkinson, CEO of the International News Media Association, notes that “Obsessed with delivering a perfect ‘print + digital’ sign-up experience, publishers can’t get their back-end databases to talk with each other efficiently enough – and that back-end difficulty is getting translated to the front-end.” Mr. Wilkinson, who speaks regularly with media company executives, goes on to say that “this is what most exasperates publishers, who know full well that an imperfect sign-up process online is costing them thousands upon thousands of registered users and paid subscribers.”

If people are going to be encouraged to start paying for digital content, the last thing they want to experience is a cumbersome or time-consuming registration process. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why several recent studies have shown that the introduction of a paywall often causes a temporary drop in website traffic. The other thing that paying customers will not tolerate is a slowdown in site performance when accessing content behind a paywall. This is why Atex designed the built-in paywall in our Web CMS 10.8 release to provide high-performing access control, using minimal lookup times and in-memory caching.

So, when considering your own paywall strategy, keep in mind the importance of product flexibility, a well-designed online sign-up experience, and overall system performance. A paywall that is integral to your Web CMS helps to address these issues head-on, enabling you to focus on your ultimate premium publishing objectives – namely, to monetize valuable content assets, engage audiences more effectively, and generate new revenue streams.

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Advertising Strategies in an Always-On World

A recent article in London’s The Independent Art and Soul always on devices reports  that digital advertising revenue grew by 12.5% last year to a whopping £5.4b (almost $8.5b). The article quotes the IAB’s director of research, who said, “Marketers are becoming more attuned to the ‘always on’ nature of consumers who expect to engage with content wherever they are.”

In recent Atex whitepapers, we’ve written about the importance of a company’s Content Management System (CMS) as the epicenter of this always-on universe. Between TV sets, laptops, tablets and smart phones, the majority of our daily media interactions involve some kind of screen. Each day we spend almost five hours of leisure time and eight hours of work time looking at a screen. Whether we are leaning forward or lying back, multi-channel media providers continue to search for ways to keep our eyes glued to their brands as we move from one device to another throughout the day. The enabling technologies in a top-tier CMS will help attract, engage and retain our eyeballs anytime, anywhere, on any device, and in any context that we are consuming brand content.

This “always-on” strategy extends to the advertising platform as well. By building and reinforcing a personal relationship between audiences, advertisers and content, media companies are discovering that the always-on experience helps to drive revenue opportunities. The proliferation of second, third and fourth screens, for example, enables a new shared experience around real-time content. As industry analyst Gartner notes, “The result will be to connect diverse fan bases, create wider discussion forums, and ultimately, drive new revenue streams based on greater real-time viewing and stronger consumer ties to content.”

Your company’s Advertising, Audience and Content Management ecosystem becomes the foundation upon which this bond between content, consumers, channels and advertisers can be built. A well-oiled and integrated technology platform will manage your content. It will manage the interplay between web, tablet, mobile, TV and other devices. It will manage the preferences and behaviors of content consumers. It will also manage the display of relevant advertising content on each device. And, (shameless plug) if you invest in technology from a company like Atex, it will enable your business to generate new advertising revenues through the targeted delivery of high-value ad content to specific consumers and audience segments.

Please come see us at HITEC conference in Minneapolis later this month or the Asian Publishing Convention next month in Manila to learn more http://www.atex.com/news-events/conference-events

Pete Marsh Google+

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Can I have a “piggyback”?

When I meet people (outside of our industry) and after they learn what I do, I frequently get the same question: “How do online suppliers I have been to follow me around the Internet?”

One friend explained a scenario where he had attempted to buy a diamond ring for his wife, as an anniversary present, from an online supplier.  At the last moment he got cold feet and backed out of the process.  Thereafter the supplier haunted him as he moved from website to website, making him feel guilty for reneging on the gift.

In most cases a high level explanation of retargeting suffices, but in this case (as my friend has a reasonable technical understanding) it didn’t.  The issue that stumped my friend,was more the breadth of websites that subsequently displayed ads for diamond rings and how they had gained a common understanding of him.

OK, to try and get this down once and for all and to give me the opportunity to be less boring at parties, I will try to explain the process.

My friend (to hide his identity I will call him Gary) visited “Diamonds Online”.  At a point in the process, after he decided not to make the purchase, Diamonds Online decided to retarget Gary, hoping to bring him back to the website and complete the sale. 

Diamonds Online have a small image on their page, which called out to a demand side platform (DSP), when Gary loaded the page.  This enabled the DSP to drop a unique cookie onto Gary’s PC, which I will refer to as “DSP cookie 1” later.

The DSP is a company and platform that manages the advertiser’s (Diamonds Online) advertising requests.  In this case, retargeting potential buyers.

When Gary moved on to “Sports Online” he was retargeted.  Sports Online sell their advertising inventory through a supply side platform (SSP).  The SSP makes the inventory available for the DSPs to bid on in real time.  The SSP also dropped a cookie onto Gary’s PC, which I will refer to as “SSP cookie 9”.

As I previously said, Gary is technically savvy and immediately said “but, the SSP cannot get access to the DSPs cookie as it was not issued by them; therefore how does the DSP know it was me on the Sports site?”

“Ah”, I said, “That is were the magic comes in!”  The SSP caused Gary to run a script, which calls known DSP bidders, passing on the reference “SSP cookie 9”.   This in turn enabled the DSP to collect their cookie reference from Gary’s machine “DSP cookie 1”.  “Gotcha”, the link was established.  This process is known as piggybacking.

Whenever Gary visits a website that deals with the SSP, the DSP will know that it is Gary, he is a potential buyer of diamond rings and is interested in sports.  They are now able to bid in real time for inventory that the SSP makes available, in an informed manner.

In reality, the retargeting would probably take place on a site that is more closely related to diamond rings (such as a lifestyle site) than a sports site, but this explains the principle.

For those who are really interested, some SSPs work the other way around.  Instead of the DSP storing the match, the SSPs store the match, which is a result of a redirect from the DSP, essentially achieving the same thing.

Good, glad I got that one off my chest!

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Should premium publishers be involved in Real-Time Bidding (RTB)?

Yes!

I would encourage publishers to get involved in RTB, at least to gain a fuller understanding of what it is - and more importantly what it is not.  Moreover, I encourage you to converse with all stakeholders in the RTB ecosystem (SSPs, DSPs, agency trading desks, brands, peer publishers’ private market place teams).  Listening to only one interest group (such as the SSPs) will project an alluring future, but you will be getting a biased perspective, which may be incompatible with your longer-term goals.

Exploring RTB (in a way that is safe and grounded in marketplace reality) is likely to result in a strong case for investing in direct sales and technology that supports direct sales.  After dipping your toes into RTB, it becomes possible to assess its short/long term implications on your core business, and how this ultimately impacts strategy and positioning. 

RTB is rightfully accredited for the introduction and early adoption of mega trends but the application is in no way limited to RTB or exchange-based trading.  Appreciating this disconnect is valuable when developing direct advertising sales and premium advertiser services.

Audience data has the power to transform digital publishing from selling commoditized space to selling audience intelligence.  Audience intelligence is what helps both you as the publisher and your clients to understand precisely how different audiences engage with advertising.

For example, optimizing for a higher click-through rates (without visibility of who is clicking), will lead to suboptimal performance.  Yes, the campaign KPI will look good, but I find that few advertisers are excited about the clicks alone …

To achieve true audience intelligence, we need to establish in-depth demographic (as well as interest based) profiles of our audience at a visitor level.  With this level of granular understanding, providing detailed real-time insight of what is/isn’t working will become the norm.

Publishers are finally in a unique position, which enables them and only them to create the required intimate relationship with their readers.  This subsequently allows them to collect and refine vast amounts of bite-sized data and transform it into genuine audience intelligence.  This is value that is clearly of a premium nature, and will help re-invent direct sales.

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Monetizing the Mobile Channel

In 2012, Pew Internet stated that nearly 50% of American adults own a Smartphone and that 67% of adults use social networks.

The challenge for us all is monetizing this growing audience segment.  It is clear that behavior is changing and that there is an expectation that all experiences will provide a higher degree of interaction.

Mobile AndroidIt is this expectation that produces the opportunity for successful monetization.  

Advertising in the form of quizzes, contests, games and polls not only provides the desired interactivity, but it also enables the collection of detailed profile information, which in turn can be used to produce a more relevant experience.

By sharing amusing trivia or historical tidbits that are associated with the advertisers product, brand loyalty can established or further reinforced.  

Interactive experiences create longer lasting and more robust associations between message and brand.

 

It is for these reasons that we have launched Atex Engage.  Engage thumbA SaaS based solution that will enable ad sales teams to offer exciting and “engaging” packages.

Our customers now have a single mechanism to interact with the community across mobile devices, websites, microsites and social networks.

If you would like to find out more about Atex Engage and what it can do for you, please download a datasheet

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Keep Moving Your Feet

Keep Moving Your Feet

When I was an ice hockey coach (okay, assistant coach) I always told my players, “Keep moving your feet.” This directive is shouted daily in ice rinks at all ranks – from junior skaters to professional levels. Today, the same instruction is as valid for teams in the software business as it is for hockey teams. We must keep moving, because we simply can’t afford to stand still.

There are three main reasons why hockey players are implored to continually keep their feet in motion:

  • Because it is harder to get moving again once you’ve come to a stop.
  • Because it is more difficult for your opponent to hit you if you’re constantly moving.
  • Because if you stop moving your feet, the goalie will know that you’re about to take a shot.

As my Atex colleague and longtime hockey head coach, Phil Campana, says, “Once the feet stop, the momentum stops. This prevents getting to loose pucks and stopping opposition players. When you stand still, the opposition can gain position and advantage on you. Offense is all about finding and creating space, and you have to keep moving to do that. Defense is just the opposite. You want to close gaps and take away space. Without momentum, it’s hard to do.”

A metaphor to the software business leaps up like a rising slapshot to the corner of the net. I know, that’s actually a simile. But, the point is, you’ve got to keep moving your feet in business to maintain momentum, to stay ahead of your competition, and to achieve your goals.

John Maxwell in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership talks about “The Law of the Big Mo” and harnessing the power of momentum. Sometimes in business, momentum is the only difference between winning and losing. As Maxwell says, “Momentum is easier to steer than to start – getting started is a struggle, but once you’re moving forward, you can really start to do some amazing things.” Sounds exactly like hockey talk to me.

In my company’s business, we use a continuous development model. New software builds are compiled daily and tested every night. This model is built into our agile, team-based software practice. Among other benefits, it ensures that we generate momentum every day. Our development teams are continually making progress, and always moving toward the shared goal of delivering quality, innovative software releases on-time and on-budget.

In addition, with continuous development, we are always integrating, refining and improving our software. Bugs are found and fixed quicker in the release process than with other non-agile methods. And, as every programmer knows, bugs can be a huge momentum killer. Often referred to as the “Broken Windows Syndrome”, there is a psychological phenomenon that shows we have less energy to find and fix bugs when there are a lot of them to attack, rather than knocking them off one at a time. 

Having momentum is important to our business because it pushes us to think on our feet, to be more productive, and to make better decisions. Hockey shifts are only 45 seconds long, so players must make an impact every time their skates hit the ice. In business, we need to take the same approach. By maintaining forward progress, we are able to add value every day. If everyone comes to work with this feet-moving philosophy, we become an elite team, rather than a team of elites. And, this benefits our teammates and our customers.

Speaking of customers, I recently read that the founder of HubSpot, Darmesh Shah, said that to build a successful software business, “you don’t just want customers, you want crazy loyal fans.” I can think of no fans more passionate than hockey fans. We are most impressed by those players who give 110% on each shift, and who show their support – through passing, checking, scoring, defending, and sometimes fighting – for their teammates.

Whether we’re talking about developing software, selling, building a marketing strategy, supporting customers, or executing a financial plan, it always starts by getting our feet moving and keeping them in motion. Just like in hockey, achieving momentum in business is all about (1) creating and executing a gameplan; (2) seizing opportunities to score; (3) responding to competitive pressures; and (4) always focusing on teamwork.

It’s Newton’s law. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. So, let’s get moving and keep on moving until we hear the whistle blow – or even better – until the puck ends up in our opponent’s net.

Pete Marsh Google+

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