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On Building Faster Horses

Customer feedback can be good and it can be bad. Customers are human beings, after all. They have different biases, experiences, backgrounds, and education.  They’re different in age and gender, and they play different roles in different companies. Marketing, sales, admin, IT, and business owners all provide a unique perspective. Even the mood of a person at the time they are providing feedback can change that feedback.

When doing something truly innovative, be careful not to take too much customer feedback. They may lead you astray, and most of the time, in circles.  

A market opportunity represents itself because techTechnology Then & Nownology, a process, or a way of doing something better can help a company become more efficient or make more money. The problem is most people already believe they are doing something the right way and they don’t believe or want to believe that there may be a better way.

This is the most difficult part of bringing new products to market—change management.  It’s getting people who do a job every day to change or to do something different.  For example, Facebook has 500 million users, but there are still 7.5 billion people in the world that haven’t figured out the value of Facebook and/or are unwilling to learn.  

I met those same people in the late 1980s and early 1990s when it came to the personal computer and software. In 1990 my grandma bought me a typewriter that had electronic keys for college, but it was still a typewriter. What if Steve Jobs had asked my grandma in a focus group to describe exactly what she needed for her grandson? She would have described a typewriter, not a computer. Remember what Steve Jobs had to say about that?

“How can I possibly ask someone what a graphics-based computer ought to be when they have no idea what a graphics-based computer is?  No one has ever seen one before.”Steve Jobs

Imagine what a rancher or farmer would have told Henry Ford when Henry suggested they could transfer goods in greater quantity, more often, and with less effort using the automobile. People who sold horses would create objections like, “Where are you going to get the gas?” “There are no roads to drive cars on.” “What are you going to do when the tires wear out or go flat?”

Henry Ford’s view on that kind of feedback and its underlying sense of fear and uncertainty has become a mantra for the modern entrepreneurial community:

“If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” -Henry Ford

Advertising and marketing people are good at what they do, but they don’t tend to be as forward thinking as we think they are, and they definitely don’t know how to build innovative technology products. The fact is that most products being developed today are just better mouse traps, or better versions of the same process or view point.  

Bringing innovation to business processes, utilizing technology to automate the collection of data and different processes saves time and money, but it requires people to bite the bullet and make the change. 

Avenue Right wants people to make a paradigm shift, get off the horse and onto the information super highway. Traditional media buyers and sellers need to change because the internet is much more efficient, making all commodities—advertising included—easier to buy, and more measurable.  Get off the horse…and buy a car.

The Real-Time Revolution in Media Buying

“Wake Up, It’s Revolution Time!” begins the first chapter of author David Meerman Scott’s latest book, Real-Time Marketing & PR: How to Instantly Engage Your Market, Connect with Customers, and Create Products that Grow Your Business Now.

 

David Meerman Scott, the brains behind WebInkNow, was speaking in Fargo today for an AAFND event, and I attended with Erin, one of our most well-loved client services managers.

Why were we there? Well, to learn how our marketing and customer service departments can continue to engage with both prospects and customers using the real-time web.

But as David highlights in his latest book, real-time isn’t just for communicating directly with buyers and customers anymore—it’s central to product development.

It’s the ability to take real-time feedback from your existing customers as well as your prospects, then communicate those ideas and suggestions—again, in real-time—to the product development team. This keeps the feedback top of mind, and out of the backlog.then now

But real-time information can provide the backbone for product development as well, beyond the marketing and sales and services that surround it.                  

The presentation began with a look at the stock market as an example of how empowered we (in this case, the brokers) can be with access to real-time information.

Similarly, we’ve used the airline ticket analogy to describe the need for real-time information for media buyers.
 

A Revolution in Media Buying

Avenue Right’s web-based media buying software incorporates all media channels—online and offline—into a single platform where users can plan, buy, reconcile, and report on their local advertising.

By taking advantage of modern data management techniques such as crowdsourcing, real-time communications, and activity dashboards, Avenue Right is able to get faster and more constant updates for marketplaces from people who already know and understand that local market. We capture data passed through our platform during the collaborations between buyer and seller and create non-biased benchmarks, based on current, real-time information.

The alternative? The 30+-years-old industry standard of collecting and analyzing data gathered months ago, already stale given its outdated survey methodology (more on “suspect methodology” behind Nielsen ratings).  

Powered by its user community, Avenue Right is not an ad network or an ad exchange, but rather a resource that brings offline and online local media planning and buying together--without interfering with inventory supply and demand or negotiations, biasing information with a commission structure, or remaining static in a digital world grown accustomed to real-time information.

Avenue Right is building a new “living” ecosystem to bring greater visibility, transparency, and efficiency to the media buying process.

The Avenue Right platform learns, grows, and evolves with the changing local media landscape. The technology leverages the real-time web to

  • Enable instant, streamlined communications and collaboration between buyer and seller,
  • Provide better insight into a local advertising marketplace, and
  • Increase efficiencies for media buyers by automating information collection, negotiation, and confirmation of media schedules.

Avenue Right is the first web-based media buying software to deliver a multi-channel media outlet database, real-time communications and marketplace data, an automation engine, and contact management as a comprehensive media buying solution. Learn more about real-time marketplace information and local media buying automation in a demo of Avenue Right!

And be sure to check out David Meerman Scott’s book, Real-Time Marketing & PR: How to Instantly Engage Your Market, Connect with Customers, and Create Products that Grow Your Business Now.

“Automation allows for a more pure marketplace based on facts and results, rather than imperfect relationships and biased information,” says Brian Gramer in an interview with Kevin Ohashi for MO.com. Gramer is founder and CEO of advertising technology company Avenue Right.

 

In the interview, Gramer discusses his philosophy as a serial entrepreneur, how Avenue Right’s software benefits smaller ad agencies, technology change and adoption, and why automation isn’t such a bad thing.    Brian Headshot 150

Interviewer Kevin Ohashi observed that Avenue Right sits at the intersection of old and new media. Here’s an excerpt on that topic:

MO: Your company is directly tied to the clash between old and new media. What are the major changes you’ve noticed since starting Avenue Right on both sides? What changes can we expect in both old and new in the next few years?
Brian: I see some major changes happening. For one thing new media has caused old media to become more responsive to measurement and reporting, forcing old media to become more quantifiable in terms of value.
New media is also changing the way we consume traditional content. Push-pull marketing isn’t the only method to use anymore—it’s about building community, getting fans, and spreading word of mouth. It’s as important to market to your current customers as it is to market to prospective customers. Old media drives awareness, and new media builds community.
Consumer marketers need both online and offline media in their mix. Traditional media is not going away. It will continue to change and morph. New media will become more competitive with different ways to advertise online. Social platforms are just another media property. The question, then, becomes how to use both to target an audience most effectively.

Read the full interview here.

Fargo a Good Place to Start

Slowly gaining national attention are the technology startup companies turning from Silicon Valley to smaller cities like Fargo, where the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well.

 

Avenue Right is one of those companies, recently highlighted in a BusinessWeek report looking at the benefits smaller cities present to startups.

 

Research conducted for the report focused on 11 factors as they related to a city, among them workforce quality, number of universities, number of patents issued, amount of venture capital, and number of small businesses and startups. Read the full report here and Fargo’s profile here.

 

Fargo’s stats showed 48 small businesses per 1,000 people.

 

As a serial entrepreneur with all companies started in Fargo-Moorhead, Avenue Right Founder & CEO Brian Gramer was interviewed for the article.

 

Here’s what he had to say: “There’s quite a bit of venture capital now compared to 10 years ago. There’s private as well as government funding and they actually work together. They have a tech incubator that I think is outstanding. There’s a lot of technical talent, because Microsoft’s second largest campus is here, and then you’ve got all the universities," Gramer says. "The people in general are very hard working. They’re dependable, they show up on time, they work hard. You hate to use the old Midwest stereotype but it does really apply in Fargo.”

 

Gramer’s first venture was AnyCollege.com, an international niche search engine that helps high school students look for colleges at the beginning of their college search process. Then in 2001 he founded Vtrenz, a marketing automation technology SaaS (Software as a Service) company that was recently acquired by Silverpop.

Advertising technology company Avenue Right was founded in January 2008.

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