Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Two weeks for seals to propogate

Here's a LinkedIn reply from my friend Irvin West, who is a Symantec sales professional:

The seal rollout will be phased over a period of 2 weeks and be completed on April 30th. It requires no action on the part of existing merchants. During this rollout phase, we are gradually transitioning to the new seal globally. During the transition phase, end consumers may experience seeing either the existing VeriSign seal or the new Secured by Norton seal. This is expected behavior, and by April 30th all seal displays will have transitioned to the new format.

I get that, and maybe it's a subtlety, but I'm surprised that accessing the same site from two different systems in the same household would exhibit that behavior.  I understand that things cache, but I would think that clearing my cache in the browser would take care of that, even though there is Javascript and possibly Flash involved.

Nonetheless, I'm sure it's just a matter of time until they're all switched over.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Norton Secured Seals spotted in the wild

As you know, the VeriSign Secured Seal is scheduled to change to the Norton Secured Seal this month.  Well, it seems to have happened, at least partially.  On my wife's Macintosh, we see the Norton seal:

While on both my PCs we see the VeriSign seal:

They both have the Norton-branded verification page:

I'm not sure exactly how long it takes the seal to propogate.  I cleared my browser cache and still got the VeriSign version, but that may have to do with caching further upstream.  Or maybe Symantec is sniffing browser versions and has rolled it out the Mac first.  Kind of a phased approach.

Anyway, it's just a matter of time before the more than 100,000 web sites displaying the seal are sporting the second, yellow version in place of the original red one.  I'll let you know when I can get a Norton seal on my PC.

ICANN's gTLD application process disrupted

Regular readers will know that I've been following with interest the coming addition of many new gTLDs in the next year or so.  It represents the biggest change in internet naming since the world wide web became popular, and it means big changes for how companies market themselves and interact with customers and other interested parties online.  The implications may be far reaching, affecting branding, SEO, landing page optimization, security, and new applications, among other things.

A few weeks ago ICANN announced that it had more than 800 individual applicant organizations registered, and everything appeared from the outside to be on track.

Well, on track everything was not.  On April 12, the last day for applications to be turned in, ICANN took the application system off line because of security vulnerabilities that made it possible for some applicants to see file names and potentially other details of others' applications.  Original expectations were for a delay of a week or so.

The latest news is very different.  ICANN has announced that it may take until at late as April 27 just to declare when the application system will go back on line.  While it may be that someone is working on categorizing the existing applications, I still have to suspect that the original May target for announcing which applications had been submitted and what they said is no longer valid.  And of course, that means the window for contesting applications and all of the steps in the process that flow out from that are likely to be delayed as well.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April is the last month for the VeriSign Secured Seal

Well, this is it.  According to Symantec, April 2012 is the last month for the VeriSign Secured Seal as we know it.  At some date this month, we're told, they'll all be changing over to the new Norton Secured Seal.  This change follows the systematic adoption of the VeriSign check mark by Symantec as a fundamental brand asset, as you can see in the upper left corner of the company's home page.

Let us now minimize the impact of this change.  The VeriSign Secured Seal is displayed on more than 100,000 web sites in 160 countries and has been viewed upwards of 750 million times a day, for an estimated total number of impressions in excess of 400 billion.  That's staggering.  Still to this day when I tell people I used to work for VeriSign, they say, "Oh, you mean that little red check mark on the web sites?"

Well, that little red check mark is going away.  Now it will be a little yellow check mark, and it won't say VeriSign, it will say Norton.  I'll be very interested to watch this transition, and I'll keep you updated on what happens.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

839 registered applicants for new gTLDs

As I've written about in the past, the world of internet naming is about to go through a massive shift with ICANN's decision to take open applications for new gTLDs.  We just passed a milestone, which was the March 29 deadline to register as a new gTLD applicant.

ICANN has announced that it now has 839 registered applicants.  That implies that the actual number of applications will be something more than that.  While it's possible to register as an applicant and not submit an application, it seems like an unlikely scenario.  Based on that my estimation is that there will be more than 1000 applications at the end of the day.

The last day to submit an application is April 12, so I imagine some people are in scramble mode right now.  Last I heard ICANN was planning on announcing the number of applications and publishing the public-facing portion of those applications some time in May, with the date to be determined.  I'll be watching for that number and those applications, and I'll let you know what I find out.

Friday, April 6, 2012

An anecdote about the right and wrong ways to evaluate marketing programs

At one stage in my career I was in charge of marketing for several significant business lines at the company I worked for.  These business lines had their own distinct budgets, marketing teams, and sales teams.  This anecdote involves one of these business lines specifically, so from here on out I'll focus just on that effort.

I had a pretty crafty marcomm manager in that business line, and somewhere along the line she wanted to explore an outsourced contact discovery and meeting generation service.  How it worked was we gave a list of target companies to this firm, which would use a combination of public information, its own proprietary database, and good old fashioned cold calling to penetrate these organizations, find the correct, empowered decision maker, and set up a meeting with the outside sales person.  From there it's up to the sales rep to make things happen.

We all agreed to trial this program and then go back in a few months and look at the results.  In three months we spent a little over $100,000 to generate maybe one hundred of these meetings in total, spread across a dozen or so outside sales reps.  Two of these meetings led directly to revenue; one brought in a little over $100,000, and the other brought in about $400,000.  That's half a million dollars in revenue on $100,000 in spend, or a 500% simple marketing ROI.  Any direct marketer will continue working that program year in and year out, and certainly by our standards it was the most effective marketing spend that business had ever seen.

Shortly after this milestone moment the company went through a reorg, and this particular business got split out completely on its own under its own GM.  I stayed with the main business and therefore gave up control of those marketing decisions.  Not long after this reorg, the original, smart marcomm manager who came up with the program in the first place told me that the new GM had killed the program.

Why did he do that?  It turns out that he went to the outside sales team and asked them if the program was working.  Two of them thought it was great.  After all, they'd brought in six figure deals on the program.  The other ten hadn't brought in anything, so they all said it was a zero.  The GM came away and said, "Well, the sales team has spoken, and clearly this program is a dud."  And so he discontinued the single most effective marketing program in the history of that business.

The moral of this story is that you have to understand what information you're using to evaluate marketing programs and what that information tells you.  Certainly it's a good idea to get the sales team's feedback on what you're doing, and lots of great knowledge is available that way.  But in this case a different, better perspective was available.  The marketing team had actually traced revenue back to spend and knew factually what the ROI was.  Failure to use that information led to the wrong decision.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On the difference between data and knowledge

I recently wrote this comment in a RetailWire discussion on the use of Big Data in brick-and-mortar retailers (I warned you that this material would start making its way into my blog):
There's a big difference between data and knowledge. Data are necessary to take store management out of the realm of guesswork and into that of true, fact-based decision making. But data points on their own are highly difficult to work with, especially when we're talking about the complex, nuanced environments we're seeking to optimize.
Our customers at RetailNext have achieved great success by using a solution that takes the huge quantity of data available and converts them into views and reports that yield actionable insight. Our solution measures more than 9000 individual data points on the average store visit. Nobody wants to examine 9000 data points per visit. Instead they want to see correlations, comparisons, and models that help them understand the true behavior in the store. They want to see heat maps of traffic and how those maps change over time. They want to see the cyclicality of the day, week, and year and how that compares to staff schedule. They want to see how all of these things correspond to actual sales at the register. And they want to be instantly alerted to certain conditions like when a certain item is near empty on the shelf or too many people are standing in line. That's how Big Data can be useful, when it's translated into actionable insights that make shopping better.