Archive for November 2009

Dashboard and Windscreen

There's a close similarity between running a business and driving a car. You should strike a balance between the time you spend on keeping your eyes on the dashboard, and the time you spend on looking through the windscreen. If you spend too much time looking at the dashboard (internally focused) you will lose focus on what is happeing on the road ahead of you. If you spend too much of time looking through the windscreen (externally focused), you will never know when you run out of fuel (cashflow crisis) because you are too busy chasing a car (competitor) moving ahead of you on the road or too busy eying on the beautiful girls (customers) walking along the streets.

Make sure you are upto date on what's happening outside the window, in the macro environment. At the same time, never lose focus on the KPI's on the dashboard to measure your success and spot failures.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

How to Create an Online Survey/Questionnaire With Google Docs?

I have been using Google Docs for quite a sometime now to solve a nasty problem most of us will have to face very often. The problem is how to access that last word document you saved from your home PC, when you are at office or working with a computer in some other place. On the other hand, when you are at a library referring some books, but not having access to your own computer to note down some of the important extracts into a word document, Google Docs might be a handy solution if you have access to a public computer in the library.

The aim of this post is not to talk much about the uses of Google Docs (which expands much beyond the few uses I’ve mentioned above), but to describe how to use Google Docs as a survey tool to collect responses for a research project or for a customer survey for a business organization.

For last few years, sites like Surveymonkey and SurveyGizmo used to serve this need for many researchers but a secret most of these people didn’t know is that, Google Docs comes with an inbuilt feature of creating professional looking online surveys just like Surveymonkey and SurveyGizmo. Most important thing is, it comes to you 100% free to collect unlimited responses, where as most of the traditional survey tools limit it to 100 or 500 responses for the free versions. You can easily create your questionnaire as a Google form and share a web link (URL) through email to get responses from your target respondents. If you have a website, you can easily embed the questionnaire into one of your web pages to give it a more professional look and feel.

To start creating a survey form/questionnaire on Google Docs, first you must have a Google Account. If you are already using Gmail; that’s your Google Account! Or else, you can create a Google account during the process of making your survey form.

Log in to and sign in with your Google Account, if you already have a one. If not, click on “Get Started” to start creating a new Google Account.

After you log in, your work desk for Google Docs would look something like this.

Let’s assume either you know how most of the Google Docs features work, or you only need to create a survey form now for your research.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

How Many Social Media Profiles Do You Actively Manage?

The World Map of Social Network Penetration Around the World

When I say, “actively manage” it involves logging into your account at least once a week, updating your profile, submitting content and interacting with friends/followers etc.

I’m interested in knowing, if there’s a “magical number” of social media profiles an average human being can handle. (Like the Dunbar’s number of social connections)

My gut feeling says that the magic number is somewhere around 3 to 5. I used to be active on Facebook, Linkedin, and Stumbleupon, for quite a sometime and recently Twitter came into my universe as well. My first impression about Twitter was not that positive, but after carefully blocking out those spam followers and unfollowing people with irrelevant interests; now I can sense the core value of Twitter as a social media tool. I can see myself more active on Twitter than what it used to be few months back. In the meantime, my activity levels on Stumbleupon have dropped drastically during the same period. I have not “discovered” a new page on Stumbleupon for weeks now, and right now there are over 50 page recommendations (by SU contacts) awaiting on my Stumbleupon toolbar for me to Stumble through.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Flickr As an eMarketing Tool for Local Businesses

Emilia Doerr writes a short (but informative) article to the Web Marketing Today bog about the effective usage of Flickr to promote your local business (Worth reading it in full). The post particularly appealed to me because I have already tested Flickr as a web marketing tool for small businesses, to promote my wife's pet clinic in Nugegoda (Sri Lanka).

It wasn't intentional at first place, even though I knew how effective Flickr could be in enhancing the web presence of any business. In fact we've been using flickr as a social media marketing tool back at my work place for some time now.

What I did was, just uploading few of the photographs I've taken at the opening of the animal clinic to my existing personal flickr account. I consciously used SEO friendly titles for the images, and related keywords in the image descriptions. Within a few days, few images that I uploaded to my flickr account (specially the location map) started to appearing on Google search results for many of the relevant keywords for "animal clinics sri lanka", "animal clinics in Colombo" "animal clinics in Nugegoda area" etc.

First; I was surprised to see people finding us on Google using these keywords (See the screen shot above, from Google Analytics reports). I never thought Sri Lankans are already Googling to find local businesses around their neighborhood. Even more surprising thing for us was to attract two regular clients to our clinic, who found us on Google and on our Facebook fan page. Just a two clients sounds not a big deal, but this is within the first 2 months of our opening.

"Search Engine Marketing" and "eMarketing" are fast becoming viable channels for reaching potential customers in Sri Lanka, especially for the small and local businesses. Larger corporations might still not get the "mass appeal" or the "impactful quick results" they expect from their marketing budget. No worries! They can continue to feed the invoices of big advertising agencies, and carry on the traditional interruption marketing tactics!!

Flickr can be a handy tool for local businesses when it comes to their SEO efforts, because the competition for the keywords they are aiming to optimize is relatively lower than for national or cross-border businesses. Because, you are narrowing down your scope to the specific geographic area you are catering to. A restaurant in Mount Lavinia, does not necessarily be the number 1 on Google search results for the keyword "restaurants in Sri Lanka". Because, if someone searching for "restaurants in Sri Lanka" on Google, he probably is trying to plan a round trip to Sri Lanka, or writing a restaurant guide for Sri Lanka. Only a genuine customer, who is seriously looking for a place to dine out in Mount Lavinia area, will search for "restaurants in Mount Lavinia". If you are after serious business; what you should aim at is the keyword which generates you serious customers. If you are just going after the number of hits to your website; you can aim at more fancy keywords with higher volumes of impressions.

I can see there are few local businesses in Colombo and sub-urbs already using some eMarketing tactics to promote their products and services. But still, largely they are limited to either broadcasting email messages through an email marketing agency or setting up a Facebook Fan page and expecting people to become fans. The problem with these email marketing agencies and eMarketing experts is, they are knowingly or unknowingly spoiling the opportunities by overdoing certain tactics. If such "overdoing" of eMarketing tactics lead to creating mistrust among the Sri Lankan public, in the future that will hinder the potential effectiveness of using such tools for a large number of small and local businesses.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Never Tie Your Ego to the Brand That You Manage

“Branding” is like falling in love. Once you seriously get involved with a brand, it is very hard to think of separating yourself from the brand that you manage. When someone makes a negative comment about your brand, you overreact by taking it too emotional. One of my friends who recently resigned from their job told me “It’s so hard to believe I’m leaving this brand after working with it for this many years. I’m still going to love it”.

From the surface look of it, one might feel it is a good thing for a brand manager to fall in love with the brand they manage. When you get emotionally close to the brand, you will do your best to make the brand the number on in the industry.

Or is it really?

In my opinion, tying your ego with the brand you manage is bad. It’s bad both for your ego and for your brand. It is bad for your ego because no brand is guaranteed to remain “un-attacked” from a hostile competitor or turbulent market conditions. If your ego is tied to your brand; then every time when the brand gets attacked, your ego too is going to get hurt. On the other hand; if you see your brand as a part of your ego, then the business decisions you make on the brand becomes “ego defending decisions” in practical terms.

Attaching your personal "ego" to the business decisions you make, can in turn make it difficult for you to recover when you make a bad business decision. You will feel that your ego is being threatened, when you are forced to admit the hard truth that you made a bad business decision. If you can leave your ego out of the equation; it makes much easier for you to put your hands up and say “I screwed it! Let me try a different trick this time”. But, as long as you keep your ego tied to the (bad) decision you made; you will continue to fight for defending your decision. In real terms, what you are actually defending is your own ego. Not your decisions or the brand.

This is why it is so important for us to separate the brand specific business decisions from the people who make those decisions. Depersonalizing the decision making process is crucial, not just at branding level, but also at all decisions a business organization is making. As soon as you separate the decision makers from the decisions they make; people will start to look at things more objectively when things go wrong.

If you truly love your brand, never fall too deep in love with it. Keep the distance!

“All great marriages involves a powerful emotion; passion. So do all great brand relationships”. But remember this quote holds true only for passion and emotion in the relationship between brand and the customers. Your love to the brand should be like the love of a parent. You are not supposed to romanticize with your brand. Your job is to making an adorable brand, for your customers to fall in love. For your customers to romanticize with!

[Originally posted on]
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

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