Wednesday, July 15, 2015

VIRAL STUPIDITY (Marketing Today II)

After my last failed attempted at garnering sales using AMAZON'S PPC Advertising, I decided to try again. (I know, screw me once, shame on AMAZON, screw me twice...) I figured with better targeting, i.e. picking AMAZON product and book pages more aligned with my own, I'd more likely reach readers interested in to my Romantic Suspense novel, REVERB. That's what AMAZON kept telling me, anyway.

I took out two more ads, one for FFTTZ and one for REVERB, even though the last two I took out had over 80,000 'Impressions,' with NO SALES.

I watched the 'Impressions' on the new ads rise into the thousands within a week, though the CTR (Click Through Rate) was very low for both (see pic), as it was for my first set of AMAZON ads.

Then I get an email from Amazon: “Important Notice: Ad Campaign Stopped Due to Low Relevance.”

I checked my AMAZON KDP SELECT Dashboard to review REVERB's ad status (see pic). I notice I had a sale! My first ever, in 4 ad campaigns with AMAZON Marketing. I'm thrilled, for about half a second, until I notice my ad says Stopped!

I inquired several times to AMAZON customer service managers:
Hi Amazon,
I'd like to take REVERB off KDP SELECT, since the ONLY REASON I'm on it was to advertise, and you just threw me off! Why? I had the same campaign running in March and April, and didn't make ANY SALES, and you kept charging me $$ for CLICKS. I finally get ONE SALE, and you stop my campaign? WHY?

AMAZON'S response:
Our ads team gauges the relevance of advertisements on by their click-through rate (CTR). If ads' CTR falls below a certain threshold, this indicates that customers are not interested enough in it, and its settings should be changed. You can launch future campaigns to try different targeting options that may improve your ad campaign’s relevance. We ensure that our authors and customers, both have a pleasant experience with KDP. This is the reason, as a work around, we request you to create a new campaign by selecting more relevant interest targets or product targets so that the ad is shown to more relevant customers.

Hmm...I had a SALE, the ONLY SALE I've ever had with AMAZON Marketing, on the very ad they Stopped! because of 'low relevance?!' How “not interested” could the customer have been if they clicked on the REVERB ad, then PURCHASED the book?

AMAZON Marketing, (and other clueless Millennial marketers out there)— What is the POINT of MARKETING?

It used to be obvious, but somehow has gotten lost in translation with all the 20-something marketers now out there, ignorant that effective marketing does NOT rely on blindly following the latest viral delusion, as youth so often does. And it's NOT for Branding, or Impressions, Engagements, CTRs, or even Reach that businesses invests in MARKETING and ADVERTISING. On or offline, in print, on billboards or the sides of buildings, with digital campaigns we hope will go viral, to true social networking— sharing the latest and greatest with friends, we market for only one real reason: TO SELL A PRODUCT/SERVICE/MESSAGE. To Sell.

AMAZON Marketing either doesn't know this, and/or doesn't care, because AMAZON is making money with CTRs whether my book sells or not. Perhaps, if AMAZON Marketing Group communicated (at least, effectively) with the AMAZON Book Sales department, we'd all benefit, unless of course, they're making so much $$$$ with their PPC program they don't really care about book sales. If this is the case, they have their head up their asses if they believe they can continue scamming businesses, which will eventually get a clue, and invest their ad dollars in other marketing platforms.

109 Click Throughs did not sell one copy of REVERB in the 3/12/2015 AMAZON ad campaign (see pic), though it cost me $8.46. Times that, by the likely tens of thousands of other businesses out there who invest their money and time in AMAZON Advertising with little to no ROI, because KDP SELECT's Marketing team clearly doesn't understand why businesses advertise. CTRs are bullshit for everybody but AMAZON, GOOGLE, and anyone else serving up PPC advertising using Impressions, Engagements, or CTRs, not SALES, as their metric of a successful ad campaign.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fitting In

Ever been sitting with a group of people, you may, or may not know, and everyone is talking amicably, and you're sitting there listening, and you feel like an alien? Not a foreign national among a group of natives. More like you're from another planet. Or they are.

I've known I was different for most of my life, always on the outside looking in at the world I live in, but don't really get. But beyond abstractions like my atheism, there are actual, real differences that separate me from most.

1. I don't drink alcohol. Can't stand the taste of the stuff. Wine. Beer. Hard liquor. BLA! Even rum wrecks some would-be-great desserts, like tiramisu. Virtually the first thing that happens at any gathering is the ritual serving of the drinks. I always refuse, which immediately raises suspicions that I'm either a friend of Bill W, or on some fad diet, or a hippy-vegan. The first brick in the wall between me and the group.

2. I don't watch TV. Too much of a time kill. I average three movies in the theater a year. I don't watch, or follow sports. Any. Ever. I don't know the latest shows, any of the actors, or what rock star is trending on YouTube. My kids turn me on to their music, my only source of what is new. And while I download what I like, I suck at remembering the artist's name, and their faces too, quite frankly. I must have some mental disorder, because people who play no active role in my life just don't register with me.

3. For the most part, I have no interest in discussing my kids. I don't want to talk about their schedules, their soccer matches, their summer camps. I'm not interested in other parents sharing the cute, or even bratty things their 5 year old did or said. I'm with my kids a LOT. I don't want it still all about them when I'm not.

4. As a woman, with other women, I feel particularly off-planet. I don't care about sales, or shoes. I dress for comfort, prefer my old, soft, often ripped clothes to new. I don't wear a bra, except when working out, or when it's mandatory for business. I never wear makeup. I don't even carry a purse. The diamond studs in my ears have been there for 30 yrs. I wear no other jewelry. I don't have a lot, and I don't want a lot, of things.

5. I'm interested in discussing the issues of the day, without being political correct, and with virtually nothing held sacred—an open forum of communication and healthy debate. But it seems every time I bring up global, national, or even local concerns, I create a void in the group's dialog, this vortex of weighted silence. Either no one seems to have heard of what I'm talking about, or they have no opinion, or they're too afraid to state it.

The bitch is, I want to fit in, be a part of, integrate as I see others do. Sort of. I just don't want to DO what most seem to. I really could care less about celebs. And while I like playing racquetball, I've no interest in watching someone play sports. Pro athletes work towards excellence 24/7, yet somehow fans take on team victories as their own, while they sit on the couch downing beer. I just don't get it. The 'little bit of color,' my mother insisted was mandatory, make most women who wear makeup look like clowns, or manikins to me. And it's a rather ironic twist that the media convinces women they need cosmetics to be pretty, especially since it's a proven cause of cancer, and cancer isn't pretty. Additionally, I don't wish to remain ignorant about global to local news, so not to disrupt my personal bliss. We really do need more than the few vocal social advocates we have now. In order for humanity to thrive, now and forward, we all must participate in solving issues of the day for our continued evolution.

Clearly, I am damning myself to the outside looking in. And while it's unlikely I'll develop a taste for alcohol anytime soon, I'm hoping through community, and global social media, to find others of like mind, as it's so often rather lonely out here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On the Train to Auschwitz II

Electricity is shooting from my fingertips. My heart is racing. My breathing fast, too fast.

“I can't understand your accent. I'd like to talk with a supervisor, NOW!” My fifth ask.

I'm on the phone with COMCAST, have been for the last 2 hrs, today; 3 hrs on Sat, 2 more the Sat before...etc.

“I sody mem for the inconvenents,” the COMCAST operator delivers his line politely, though I'm yelling at him.

I'm yelling at him because he's the 17th Indian employee, talking to me from India, I've spoken with in the last year alone, and I've been trying to get my internet connection stabilize, i.e. consistently ON for FOUR YEARS NOW.

“I here do help you, mem. Wvat is you account numba?” He's lying. He doesn't want to help me. He wants me on the line so he has a job tomorrow, because he wants to feed his family. So do Americans, but he doesn't care about that either.

“I want to speak with a supervisor NOW, dickhead. Do you fucking understand me?” I'm getting mean. I've learned not to care about him, as he doesn't care about me, or even the problem I'm having with COMCAST. He does not deserve my respect. Past experience with COMCAST customer service has taught me that he is the enemy, making sure he takes care of himself, regardless that he's screwing the very people he's supposed to be working for—the COMCAST customer.

Germans drove trains, turned in their neighbors, sent millions to slave labor and gas chambers to protect their own asses. They didn't stand up to Nazis (COMCAST, PG&E, AT&T). They let the German government tell them what to do, how to think, what to say, what not to, just like COMCAST teaches their employees, Indian or otherwise.

It is insanity that COMCAST delivers HALF THE SERVICE they claim to offer, but I have to pay ALL OF MY BILL monthly. Sure, I can go with AT&T, who were just fined $18.25M for STEALING FROM THEIR CUSTOMERS, cutting internet speeds to you and me, to give more bandwidth to whoever they liked. And do you REALLY believe that AT&T will stop stealing time and hurting productivity for small businesses like yours and mine after this fine? Seriously. They'll do what they want, get sued again, then raise their rates to pay for the lawsuit. Just like PG&E, who MURDERED 8 people in San Bruno, destroyed an entire neighborhood, was fined the most EVER in a lawsuit of its kind, and simply raised their rates to cover the suit. We're all paying to let them get away with murder.

Is this the society you all want? It makes my skin crawl every time my husband insists on paying a bill that is wrong because COMCAST and AT&T make it a 2 hr journey of frustration to talk to an operator in India or Mexico who has little to no training, can barely speak English, and who DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOUR PROBLEM. They have to feed their families, on the backs of Americans, because their governments are so corrupt that only the wealthy thrive, while the rest of their people struggle to get by. Or flat out starve, like the begging children that surround foreigners in India.

Well, now our government is equally corrupt, placating to COMCAST and big business lobbyists. And WE ALL LET THEM.

My father-in-law spent between the ages of 13-18 in Auschwitz after watching his entire family murdered by Nazis. His neighbors, their kids that he used to play soccer with, all turned a blind eye. AMERICANS ARE NOW DOING THE SAME THING. We've become complacent, as long as we have Netflix, and Amazon, and Uber for food delivery. He told me once that anything becomes acceptable to most people, that watching Nazis murder children daily, for sport, or seeing prisoners throw themselves against electric fences to commit suicide became the norm in Auschwitz. It is now the norm to accept bad behavior from big business. And regardless of our Supreme Courts twisted decision that "Corporations are people, too," there are actual people working for them, from managment down the line, that are at the core of this issue.

The German train drivers, or the local store owners that stopped serving Jews and Gays and Gypsies, they were simply “following orders,” like the Indian rep working for COMCAST delivering the company's lies with every line he spoke. 

Those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it

You can all plug into your devices and apps and ignore the news, and pretend the economy is stable for you, even though it's a house of cards with Disney and other major employers firing U.S. workers and replacing them with H1Bs, and just bend over and pay every bill without protest. You can choose to be one of the Nazis, or the 'good Germans' who turned their heads while their neighbors were murdered.

Harsh? You bet. But again, is a society where the few rich thrive, and do whatever they want, whenever they want, with NO ACCOUNTABILITY, or real punishment, where you want to live?


Protest—tweet, update, share your stories when you are screwed by COMCAST, AT&T, PG&E. Take the time to tell the world that SAMSUNG put a ton of apps on the phone you just purchased that you don't use, don't want, and YOU ARE PAYING FOR in loadtime and battery life. Sign petitions by people who give a shit enough to fight corruption and are looking for support to stop it, and not just causes that adversely effect you directly, but humanity, and the planet. Fight every bill that's wrong. Don't speak with respect to the CS reps who show you none! Their politeness is a facade, taught to them by greedy, ugly management who are happy to keep you on the line repeating the same information to the next rep who doesn't take notes, maybe is even illiterate, and has no clue what your issue is. Show your outrage passionately!! Make their job hard, because they are willingly stealing your time, and your income, and most assuredly making you miserable not caring about your needs to guarantee their jobs. And if you think these reps are not aware of what is happening on the back end, that's BULLSHIT—an excuse to remain ignorant, especially since almost every call they get is from beleaguered customers like me who take them to task on COMCAST FAILING TO DELIVER on their promises. If you make it misery to work at COMCAST, perhaps they'll look for real jobs that require thinking, literacy, and actually add value, benefit customers, instead of blindly obeying the totalitarian leadership of the COMCAST regime.

Friday, June 5, 2015

How Men Are

I have this lump in my throat as I write this. I want to cry, for the 'Thousand Slights' you'll suffer. I want to shield you from that pain. But I can't. And it makes me feel helpless and small, and scared. I love you, Jess. You were in the playroom when I came in yesterday night after shopping. You were building with Magnatiles, this beautiful amphitheater structure. Dad and your brother were playing Stratego on the kitchen table. At first I thought the scene was good and you were happy down there on your own. But as I put the food away, I noticed your face, I saw your sadness, and as I write this I can't stop my tears.

Daughter of mine, I want to tell you about a billion things here, things I got along the way, and ponder with you the world of things I'm still missing. But one thing I know for sure, men are not wired like women. They're not. They're not connected outward, outside themselves most of the time. Most men anyway. And that is going to come back and bite you again and again. And hurt you. And I'm sorry. I wish it was different.

The thing is, throughout your life you're going to have to work really hard with most men to bring them outside themselves. I'm not indicting men. After knowing many in my 45 years, marrying one and raising another, I've come to see that the genetic differences between us truly do separate us. Perhaps because women give birth we are connected outside ourselves, naturally maternal, hardwired to be caregivers, our senses plugged into the scene for the most part, Men have focued on tasks, not so much emotional outreach. And even though women work along side men now, at this point in human development, it still falls on women to help men become more aware of others, more connected outside of themselves.

Dad and E were plugged into themselves last night. I'm sorry you were excluded. And I'm sorry I wasn't there to make them more aware of how that affected you. And I know it doesn't really count to say they had no intention of hurting you, but this is the work to which I'm referring. You're going to have to bring men to you-- make them aware of your needs. You did that when you asked daddy to be on his team, but when he said no, you should have told him how that made you feel. Don't just walk away and feel hurt. For one thing, they didn't even notice they hurt you.

Men are genetically wired inward, their senses connected to their body, and inside their own mind. Most must be taught to expand their awareness to you, the kids, the complexities of the moment at hand. Our technology driven society no longer requires brute force to survive. Narrowing focus to battle the Mastodon is no longer necessary. Again, this is not an indictment. Both sexes have many gifts for the other. Each of us needs to be more aware of, and responsive to the other in our ever shrinking, volatile world.

Jess, you are my ray of sunshine, you're positively delightful by everyone's reckoning who has the privilege of knowing you. I fear the 'Thousand Slights' will rob you of your lightness. I hope you don't let them. Express what you need, how you feel, keep pushing the envelope of awareness, and know evolution takes millennium. We are all works in progress, and we must learn from one another to thrive.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Marketing Today

There's an attitude in marketing these days that if you throw enough shit against the wall (cyberspace), some will stick, and generate sales. The problem with that is, there's so much shit out there, the web's becoming one big crappy ad platform, and most of the marketing has little to no impact.

Case in point:
I took three PPC ads out on Amazon to help me sell my novels. Not 'promote' or 'brand,' or 'engage,' or any other bullshit term marketers tell clients. I took the ads out to SELL my novels. Here are the results (click on image for larger view):

So, let's examine them. 89,116 “Impressions,” and I had 0 sales. Amazon got $8.96 of my money (and times this nominal amount by the ten's of thousands of others like me out there). Hmm...about the only one making money here is Amazon.

Same crappy ROIs with most Google Adword campaigns as with Amazon, but we keep doing them because Amazon and Google tout them. They show us our 'analytics' everyday, in some cases in real time. It's a buzz watching the number of “Impressions” rise. And Impressions, i.e. eyeballs leads to sales, eventually, right?

Not so much. Clearly, with the above example. Breaking down the three campaigns, the bottom row, the one I terminated, I categorized by product segment, i.e. a BOOK, and it was a ROMANCE novel.

After viewing a webinar from Amazon detailing how to “target” audiences, I ran the two campaigns above it. For these I was required to authorize a minimum $100 spending limit for each of my ads. I was then allowed to choose my PPC (Pay Per Click) rate, then spent hours inputting Amazon product page URLs that I felt related to my novels. If my PPC rate was accepted, Amazon then ran my 'ads,' which were merely a tiny thumbnail image of my book cover, the book title, which doubled as a link to the book's purchase pg, author's name, star rating, and price.

My campaigns were a waste of my precious time, which, at least in this case, is more important than the minor expense, as TIME must be considered in ROI of all marketing efforts.

So what went wrong...

● First, “Impressions” don't mean shit. Obviously. What the hell are they, really? According to Twitter's definition: “Number of times users saw the Tweet on Twitter.” And what the hell does that mean. When I drill down, NO ONE seems to know exactly. How does Twitter know who's looking at their cellphone or computer screen when my tweet flashes by? At best, they're making an algorithmic guess, and it serves them to show high Impression numbers.

I average 500 Impressions per tweet, and I tweet 6-18 times a day. As fun as it is watching the number of Impression rise in real time, it doesn't convert to sales all that much, when considering the ROI in time— setting up TweetDeck to continually auto-tweet unique text and visual content. (I average close to 100 retweets a day, with the same underwhelming effect on sales as Impressions).*

Link Clicks are bullshit too. Even with their sophisticated detection algorithms, Amazon, Google, and any other site that sells stuff online can NOT detect all the bots, robots or low-wage workers gaming the PPC system by repeatedly clicking on each AdSense ad on their sites.

● My 'ads' had NO differentiator. No headlines. No text reviews. Nothing to distinguish them for the 8 million other ROMANCE novels on Amazon.

● My tiny 'ads' were stuck on already visually overcrowded pages, full of book recommendations, similar purchases, and other ads for the same genre as my novel.

Amazon's strategy of 'targeting' my audience was a joke. Something like 95% of women polled say they like books with ROMANCE in them. For my 'targeted' ads, the two with the most Impressions, I loaded over 300 Amazon URLs for each of my ads into their “Target These Sites” UI, with a cross-section of books like mine. I even loaded music URLs. Very time consuming! But with no headline, no differentiators, my novels were like everyone else's on the product pages I authorized Amazon to bid to display them.

● Copywriting and marketing are now being done by clueless web developers, or outsourced for slave labor, or become job functions of the pubescent [cheap] workforce (who don't know how to sell value and fall back to pushing image), not marketing pros trained in generating response. Sadly. And while the cheap solution initially seems attractive, in the long run the ROI doesn't pan out.

Barraging the net with crap advertising, with little to no ROI, is sticking alright, to all of us, making the internet into one big shit ad platform. I can't watch a video, read a news article, scroll my Facebook feed, do virtually anything online these days without being bombarded with garbage. So, now, even good marketing, the kind that touts products and services that actually fulfills a need for a target market, isn't seen through the muck.

The great hope of the internet connecting us all, may, in fact, be isolating us. As we train ourselves to shut out the unrelenting stream of shit marketing, we're learning to ignore each other.

*Content Marketing— 'engaging' potential and existing customers by entertaining rather then selling, even in the abstract, has equally bad ROI as PPC, but often gets a lot of “Impressions.”

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Little Kindness

Other day I was running my usual route and a woman pulled her car out of a business park driveway and blocked my path. The instant she saw me approaching she pulled her car back, allowing me room to continue running on the sidewalk instead of into the street to get around her. I smiled. Waved thanks as I passed in front of her car. She smiled and waved back. Felt nice, made the rest of my run less jarring, lighter somehow. Simple really, but oh, what a simple little kindness can do...

Most every day someone does something kind; lets us into their lane on the highway; opens a door, holds an elevator; Likes our update or post; simple acts of kindness that personify our potential for goodness. And while this may seem small on the surface, the residual effects of these displays of caring builds trust, connects us to each other, and gives us hope in our humanity.

We hear about the bad all the time. We hear about the good, too, but on the large scale, like doctors going to Nepal after the quake, or philanthropic superstars and their latest cause. But it's really the little acts of kindness that unite us, everyday simple actions that show we care for one another and the world we inhabit that builds a solid foundation for our race to thrive.

What simple act of caring did you give or receive today?

Share a little kindness and exchange a little hope...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cutting the Cord with Teens

WATCH OUT for the teen years, my friends with kids told me when mine were young. Your adorable children will turn into...and they'd paint this horrific picture of my beautiful kids morphing into monsters.

I didn't believe em. After all, I'd donated more of my time and energy to my kids than my career since they'd arrived on the scene. No Latchkey kids, unlike we were raised, my DH and I agreed. Between the female artist, and the male software developer, reason dictated he would be the primary bread-winner. My creative career would have to shift to the background of my full-time job as mom.

Beyond taking care of our kids physical needs, I've spent the last 16 yrs working so very hard at keeping our communication open, honest, constant. I've probed and prodded and insisted my kids talk to me. Everyday. And not just chatter, but tell me something real—who they hung with, what they learned, how they feel. And for quite some time, and maybe even still today, my teens would likely say that I'm their best friend.

I've been anticipating a separation to occur between us, excited for the teen years to come, for both of us. My beautiful kids are turning into kind people, for which I'm both grateful and proud. They're growing up, moving on to their lives. It's time for me to step back, let them take care of themselves more and more. For 16 years I've been deferring my muse, entrenched in being a mom and caretaker first. I'm ready, eager to go back to directing my life.

My teens, on the other hand, aren't so thrilled to move on—cut the cord. Prickly and passionate like most teens, they're searching for themselves, separate from family, yet are still unable to be truly independent. They're brains are mature enough now to understand our competitive, often harsh world they've felt little impact from during their formative years. Seeing what it takes to make it on their own today, a good percentage of their psyche wants to stay a kid, continue being taken care of. Safe at home. I get it, though have not lived this. My home was neither satisfying, nor a safe emotional space.

I'm glad to provide an environment my kids are happy to be in. And I'm lucky, to be sure, that even in their teen years, beyond loving them, I really like both of them. But sometimes I wonder if the environment we're providing is a little too secure. Staying a kid only works with a mom, or benefactor. Growing up is about taking care of yourself. As their taxi, their therapist, their teacher, their bank, their cook, their conscience, my kids have it made here. Regardless that they are now mature enough to converse more articulately than most adults I've met, the difference between their words and actions is the Grand frigging Canyon. And while I'm ready for them to take the reins and guide their own lives, they aren't even on the horse.

Parents of teen assured me my kids would become rude, distant, aggressive—angling to put in place a separation between us. And while some of this is going on, it's minimal at best, comparatively speaking from what I've witnessed. What parents who made it through the teen years didn't tell me is that I would be the one looking to cut the cord.