Meet a top social entrepreneur

first_imgPaul Matthew visits a roadside wellness centre in Kenya and talks to Kenyan truck drivers. (Image: Virginie Lepetre) The North Star clinics are open after hours when drivers have parked for the night. (Image: North Star Alliance) North Star staff go “door to door” to raise awareness about the services offered at the roadside wellness centre in Mwanza, Malawi (Image: North Star Alliance) MEDIA CONTACTS • Robin Landis  Marketing and Communications   +254 (0) 736 300 413 RELATED ARTICLES • Software speeds HIV diagnosis • SA’s second health train rolls out • Board game makes Aids education fun • SA’s first green transport service Wilma den HartighSouth African social entrepreneur Paul Matthew’s pioneering work in HIV/Aids prevention in the road freight industry is making an important contribution to finding innovative healthcare delivery models for Africa.Matthew’s commitment to this cause has just won him a place among the continent’s top five social entrepreneurs, named by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, a sister organisation of the World Economic Forum (WEF).Speaking from Addis Ababa where the proceedings of the 2012 WEF Africa are underway, Matthew says that the recognition of his work – which spans over 20 years – is a great honour.“There was such a build up to the awards ceremony last night, and it is only this morning that it is all starting to sink in. Only now I have been able to reflect on it,” he says.Matthew received the prestigious accolade for his foresight in establishing an organisation, known as the North Star Alliance, to address the impact of HIV/Aids on mobile workers such as truck drivers in Africa.The North Star Alliance is a cross-border HIV prevention initiative that has set up a network of roadside wellness clinics along key transport routes in Africa, such as border posts or transit towns where large numbers of trucks stop and sex work and other informal trades flourish.What makes this particular initiative so important is that it is very much in line with the WEF’s objective to find new ways to deliver healthcare to communities in Africa.But many years ago when Matthew first got the idea to establish a project that could take HIV education to the road where truck drivers spend most of their time, he had no idea that it would achieve success of this scale.“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would stand on a stage and receive this award,” he says.North Star’s wellness clinics are open to everyone, but they are designed for the specific health needs of truck drivers and other mobile populations. They provide prevention and treatment services such as HIV counselling and testing; treatment for sexually transmitted infections; basic health services; information and education and behaviour change communication.“South Africa is ahead of the rest of the continent when it comes to HIV prevention in the freight industry, but elsewhere in Africa there is a major need for such services,” he says.Small beginnings on a cold nightHe remembers the humble beginnings of the project, particularly the very cold nights on the N3 highway, one of South Africa’s most popular transport routes.“While I was at the ceremony last night, I remembered sitting in an ambulance next to the road on the N3 highway near Harrismith,” he recalls. “I remember asking myself what I was doing.”This was the first pilot project to gauge how truck drivers responded to the idea.“I was with a nurse and we set up a tent near one of the popular truck stops to encourage drivers to come in,” he says.At first only a few drivers made use of the facility, but by the end of the week as the trucks travelled further news got out about what was on offer and more people were visiting their tent.“The model works well because the clinics are where the drivers pull up,” he explains. Along South Africa transport routes, the centres are set up at truck stops but in other countries, they are stationed at border posts and hot spots along the transport routes.Why truck drivers?Matthew, who is North Star’s Africa director, has been working in the education and health sectors most of his career. He realised that taking HIV prevention to the road, where the drivers are, is vital.The issue of health and mobility came under the spotlight during the 2003 – 2005 Southern Africa food crisis, when world food programmes struggled to find enough truck drivers to deliver relief food to communities.In terms of freight transport, truck drivers are important for the economy as many businesses in Africa rely on them as a resource.North Star’s observation at its inception was that with the incidence of disease being so prevalent, the numbers of drivers available to transport freight has, over time, decreased dramatically.Their research showed that simple factors such as limited operating hours and the location of health services are huge barriers to healthcare provision. For instance, there may not be suitable large vehicle parking or the health facility may be closed in the evenings.The North Star clinics are open after hours when drivers have parked for the night.“The life of a truck driver is harsh. Once a driver leaves the depot, he is away for up to three weeks on the road without access to healthcare,” explains Matthew.He says that once started the project, he quickly realised that the clinics couldn’t only provide healthcare for truck drivers exclusively – sex workers on route and surrounding communities also needed help. “Now our clinics are also providing treatment to these people.”Working with governmentsThe initiative has the support of many transport companies and because it is a public- private partnership, North Star also works closely with governments in various countries to align its healthcare offering with local state programmes.“Whenever we set up a new clinic in a specific area, we sign a memorandum of understanding with the ministry of health in that country,” explains Matthew. “In some countries our clinics complement their healthcare provision services by acting as a satellite to what they are doing.”Sometimes the respective governments provide staff and medical supplies for the clinics, but otherwise it is up to North Star to raise funds to employ nurses and buy medication.Expanding its reachNorth Star operates in 19 countries including Burundi; Côte d’Ivoire; Benin; Zimbabwe; The Democratic Republic of Congo; Nigeria; Rwanda; Swaziland and South Africa.Since opening its first centre in 2005 in Malawi, North Star has set up 22 additional centres in 10 countries across the continent.“North Star has exciting new projects on the card,” he says. “In the next 12 months we will upscale the clinics to include mobile container clinics that can travel around.”Matthew says they are setting up a commercial arm of the project, in partnership with fleet safety management company Fleet Forum, that will focus on safe driving practices such as driver skills and managing fatigue.The initiative, which launched in a pilot phase at the beginning of May, makes use of an innovative training approach that communicates with drivers via CDs that can be played in trucks – an ideal means of communication for drivers who are always on the road.The recording on the CD is structured to sound like a radio programme with a disk jockey that plays music, carefully selected, based on research, to find out what type of music drivers enjoy.“The training module comes where radio stations usually play adverts between songs. Instead of adverts, quick information on driver safety will be played,” he explains.Bringing about social changeSelected from more than 500 candidates, the work of Africa’s social entrepreneurs has been set apart as examples of how entrepreneurship in the public interest can transform the continent.Matthew’s groundbreaking work in area of HIV/Aids and healthcare provision, two of the continent’s biggest challenges, is making a significant difference to the lives of thousands of people in Africa.last_img read more

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High-Performance and Net-Zero Homes — Part 5

first_imgIn the prior installment in this blog series, I proposed a rationale for the adoption of integrated project delivery (IPD) and promised to follow with suggestions regarding its implementation, along with some resources.Meanwhile, that last blog generated a great dialogue (and a few diatribes – always a plus!) about that classic IPD bugaboo, the design-bid-build model. Many of the commenters echoed my own very strong sentiments in favor of involving contractors during early design stages, and gave some great suggestions for how to do that. I won’t reiterate those here, but do encourage anyone who hasn’t read them to do so. Several other types of resources can support IPDContracts. In many discussions of IPD, the issues of responsibility and liability come up. Understandably, this is of paramount concern when project teams deviate from the standard approach to project delivery. A number of relatively new contract forms have evolved to address this need, including the following:AIA A195/B195/A295 Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Contractor/ Owner and Architect for Integrated Project DeliveryAIA C195 Standard Form Single Purpose Entity Agreement for Integrated Project DeliveryConsensus DOCS 300 Standard Form of Tri-Party Agreement for Collaborative Project DeliveryMeeting Resources. As prosaic as it sounds, meeting logistics can be one of the biggest challenges an IPD team faces. There are a number of free online scheduling utilities; I find Doodle to be particularly user-friendly. When an in-person meeting isn’t possible, a conference call (e.g., FreeConference) or web-based meeting is often a good compromise. Skype provides not just free and low-cost calling, but also has a remote desktop sharing feature which is very easy to use. There are numerous web-based meeting services; among the more popular are Webex, GoToMeeting, and Adobe Connect.Information Resources. While not explicitly targeted to IPD teams, these resources can help teams more quickly arrive at sound decisions on high-performance projects:Building America 50% savings packages (climate-specific packages of energy features that will yield 50% energy savings compared with code-built homes)Building Green product reviews, case studies, and in-depth articlesGreen Building Advisor case studies on net-zero and other highly energy-efficient residential projects (and much more, of course!)National Renewable Energy Laboratory information on solar thermal and solar electric systems, among many other resourcesFlorida Solar Energy Center research, case studies, and much moreCollaboration Utilities. There is a diverse and rapidly increasing variety of online utilities that can help support good teamwork. One type is mind-mapping software such as Mindjet, which allows users to create online bubble diagrams and attach myriad types of information to them, including documents of all types, images, emails, urls, etc. This is a very dynamic tool for visually organizing information and ideas, and all team members can contribute. Houzz and Pinterest are representatives of another emerging class of utilities that are designed to allow users to create and share collections of visual information. The Siamese twins of IPDBefore moving on to the discussion of IPD implementation, I’ll share a couple of fundamental principles I’ve derived from my own experience – realizations resulting from shortcomings in process (failures have a way of providing teachable moments, don’t they?!) that have strongly shaped my views about implementation.Principle #1: Sound Process. If your process is sound, good outcomes will follow. In other words, it’s kind of tough to produce a lousy project if you’re observing a well-crafted (integrated) process. RELATED ARTICLES High-Performance and Net-Zero Homes — Part 1High-Performance and Net-Zero Homes — Part 2High-Performance and Net-Zero Homes — Part 3High-Performance and Net-Zero Homes — Part 4 IPD means following some rulesMy principles, above, were the result of observations about things that were working well, and some things that weren’t. Further observation and reflection on those principles over many years has led me to a set of basic rules for implementing IPD:Rule #1: Committed Leadership. Committed leadership is absolutely crucial. If either the purse-strings are controlled by a party who is not committed to IPD or the project team leader is not committed to IPD, it simply can’t happen. A sound process won’t be observed, and you may be unable to engage the right players.Rule #2: Designate a Champion. It’s critical to have an IPD champion within the project team. IPD is not the normal way building projects are developed; hence, someone needs to be responsible for its care and feeding. This may be anyone on the team, but ideally a seasoned professional with prior IPD experience or someone who is enthusiastic about the prospect of fulfilling this role and who is very organized.Rule #3: Be Inclusive. As much as you can, include every team member in your IPD process from the earliest possible date (or, by definition, it’s not so integrated). There’s a very practical reason for this: the person left out is the one who will cause problems – not out of malice, stupidity, or laziness, but typically because of a lack of understanding of the project’s goals or of the reasoning that underlies particular decisions. (Hearken back to part 4 in this blog series.)Rule #4: Establish Communication Protocols Early. As a team, identify the range of systems, materials, and issues that will need to be addressed as the project progresses, and the team members who should be involved in communications about each of these areas. Often it’s a pretty comprehensive matrix; the sample shown below arguably is missing some dots.Rule #5: Use an Online Workspace. There are a number of online workspace options, ranging in sophistication from the fairly rudimentary (e.g., Buzzsaw, Google Docs) to the more fully-featured such as Central Desktop and Basecamp, which I use because it offers a reasonably good balance between functionality and price. The two principal values of these utilities are:• Version control – everyone should have access at all times to the most current version of all project documents;• Email conversation archive – dialogue among team members about particular issues should be easily accessible from one central point without having to mine individuals’ sent or received email boxes. Principle #2: Right Players. A sound process, carried out by the right people, all but guarantees a good project (or product). The “right people” are qualified, committed, and creative. By qualified, I mean having prior relevant experience – ideally on other high-performance projects, and projects that are comparable in nature (building type) and scope (size, complexity). Committed players are also crucial, and in fact, a team member who lacks an ideal background but who is hugely enthusiastic about the undertaking can be a great asset. And finally, a spirit of creativity and innovation are essential. Ultimately, attitude trumps experience, if you can’t have both.These two principles are Siamese twins; one can’t exist without the other. Closing thought: integrated ≠ linearIn Part 4 I described the conventional or predominantly linear handoff process by which buildings are designed and constructed. Integrated project delivery, by contrast, is iterative rather than linear. And while a certain amount of iteration is inevitable even in a normal process, it’s a defining feature of IPD. For those new to IPD, this may seem inefficient, evoking sensations of déjà vu – didn’t we already discuss this? Didn’t we already decide? However, the nature of IPD is such that deeper discussion and more intensive collaboration reveals more nuance and therefore a more thoughtful and carefully considered approach to design and construction. Hence revisiting some ideas and decisions is inescapable. I like the metaphor of the spiral staircase to represent this phenomenon – although the landscape may be strikingly familiar as you move from one stage of a project to the next, in fact you are progressing towards your goal. And paradoxical as it may seem, this spiraling process is the quickest route from the start of design to your destination – a highly efficient and resourceful building. Many of my colleagues who have been involved in designing high-performance projects attest to this, perhaps none so succinctly as Scott Shell of EHDD Architects in San Francisco:“Integrated design can reduce construction cost while providing significant sustainable design benefits. On the CSU [California State University] Monterey Bay Library, by comparing a number of integrated structural, mechanical, and architectural schemes, we found that tradeoffs from one discipline more than offset added costs in another, while achieving energy savings of almost 40 percent.”last_img read more

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Is This Insulation Too Good To Be True?

first_img Video Series: Covering an existing roof with rigid foam Insulating Low-Slope Residential RoofsHow to Build an Insulated Cathedral CeilingMartin’s Ten Rules of Roof DesignOpen-Cell Spray Foam and Damp Roof SheathingHow to Install Rigid Foam on Top of Roof Sheathing Go with the spray foam optionOne of Verschuren’s objections to spray foam is that it would defeat the purpose of installing cedar shingles over skip sheathing by limiting their drying potential.But Holladay has a suggestion: “If you are committed to your plan,” he writes, “install some cardboard or housewrap between your rafters followed by R-20 of spray foam, and live with the imperfect thermal performance of that type of assembly (assuming, of course, that your local building department doesn’t require a higher R-value),” he writes.Once Verschuren has cut up all that expensive insulation and placed it between the rafters, Holladay says, there is still the problem of thermal bridging through the rafters. “Once thermal bridging is accounted for, the improved performance compared to spray foam is minor, and certainly not worth the investment.”Nate G looks at it this way: Verschuren’s planned installation of Spaceloft, with a total price tag of $10,000 for materials alone, yields a total R-value of 38. Holladay’s alternative of closed-cell foam over cardboard plus a single layer of Spaceloft gets the roof to R-29 at a cost of $2,480.“So for less than 25 percent of the price, taking Martin’s advice and adding only a little bit of Spaceloft would get you 77 percent of the R-value. That seems like a no-brainer to me. The differences between R-30 and R-38 are not worth paying another $7,500, in my humble opinon,” he writes. “Comfort-wise, if this is conditioned space, you won’t feel the difference. But it’s your money!” RELATED ARTICLES Do the math on how much you’d really saveThe cedar roof cost $20,000 just five years ago, Verschuren replies, so removing it to put more insulation above the rafters isn’t an attractive idea — and it makes the Spaceloft option look a little less harebrained despite the expense. In addition, the engineer who’s designing a radiant-floor heating system for the house wants a healthy dose of insulation.Charlie Sullivan has sharpened his pencil and done some math. After using new cost estimates provided by Verschuren, he calculates that Spaceloft would cost about $15 per board foot (1 foot square by 1 inch thick).“That brings is back into the realm of a little eccentric, as opposed to completely wacko,” Sullivan says. “I’m comfortable with a little eccentric. My previous cost-effective calculation changes to 12 times as expensive as it should be, rather than 75 times.“The extra heat loss from that, at a 60°F temperature difference (we still don’t know your climate, so that’s a guess) is only 265 Btu/h less than you’d get with an R-5/inch solution. The radiant engineer shouldn’t call himself an engineer (or radiant for that matter) if he thinks that an extra 265 Btu/h is going to undermine his design. That’s less heat loss than a 25 square foot high-quality U-0.2 triple-pane window.”Nate G believes Verschuren would do himself a favor by being more flexible. “You seem to be getting yourself tied in knots because of the limitations you’ve set for yourself,” he adds. “Sometimes it’s time to admit that those limitations either preclude any good options or need to be removed.”If Verschuren could lose just a few inches of ceiling height, he adds, he’s have many more options. Or, if he needs more space, he could always build a ground-floor addition that preserves the architectural character of the house. The coup de grace for this idea?The discussion so far has assumed Spaceloft has an insulating value of R-10 per inch, and that apparently does apply for certain versions of this product. But Bill Dietze takes a close look at the fine print and throws this curve: “Jan, the link you provide mentions the uses of Spaceloft as ‘Great for home insulation, winter clothing, science projects,’ but the link to datasheets for material with a conductivity of 0.14 W/mK (R-10 per inch) is an undersea pipe product,” he writes. “Hardly residential. If you proceed, be aware that you are probably in the ‘science project’ category.“The Spaceloft product rated for ‘Ambient temperature walls, floors and roofs in commercial, residential and institutional building’ has a lower thermal resistance (R-8.3 per inch) and no datasheet describing the application.”If the lower R-value is correct, it makes the case for Spaceloft even less compelling, Holladay points out.“But it is still ahead in many ways over ‘the rest’ to use,” Verschuren says. We have the money to do it but do not want to waste it, either!” Editor’s note: After this article was published, GBA learned that the product formerly known as Spaceloft has be re-branded as Proloft. For more information on Proloft, visit Advanced Insolutions Inc.. Here is a link to a report on R-value testing of Proloft Aerogel Blanket.center_img There are a few downsides, however: The cost is “exorbitant,” and Verschuren still has to figure out how to detail the installation so it will be vapor-open and able to dry out.Or, does he have other alternatives? That’s the issue for this Q&A Spotlight. Our expert’s opinionHere’s how GBA technical director Peter Yost sees it:I decided I really needed to check in with Jan Verschuren on this one; just too many balls in the air to offer any helpful perspective. Having done that, I think the list of constraints (below) Jan poses or faces proves that if you narrow the boundary conditions on a problem enough, you can arrive at a singular solution.Here are the factors to consider:The newness of the current roof cladding means you can’t build up insulation topside.Very low ceiling heights mean that there is little room to build up insulation on the bottom.The ceiling is already being built down 13/16 inches for Warmboard-R panels, primarily for radiant cooling.Radiant cooling for the attic space is being driven by lack of room for ducts and an already-in-place ground-source heat pump system, making for a fairly easily retrofit for radiant cooling.The homeowners can’t really rely upon natural ventilation (open windows) for low-grade space cooling because of urban noise issues.Spray foam insulation is not an option.As Jan says, “…my hands are tied!”So, if we can agree to accept these constraints, Jan is ending up with layers of Spaceloft in between the rafters and two layers (2 centimeters) of continuous Spaceloft to the underside of the rafters.We confirmed that standardized independent R-value testing of Spaceloft yields about R-8.3 per inch. That makes Spaceloft significantly better per unit of thickness than any other readily available building insulation but also means the entire assembly is still not code-compliant and far from high performance.At the end of the day, that phrase “readily available” may be the key to whether this solution will work for Jan and others considering this pricey approach to insulation: neither I nor Jan could get Aerogel to respond at all to our requests for technical information and information on the availability of Spaceloft for Jan’s project.No magic bullet for this one, with neither the bullet or its delivery magical at all. Space what?GBA senior editor Martin Holladay has never heard of Spaceloft, but has two other suggestions. “Three and a half inches of closed-cell spray foam would give you about R-22.7,” he writes. “That’s less than code minimum requirements. The solution is to thicken up your rafters or to install several layers of continuous rigid foam under your rafters.“You’ll lose a little headroom, but at least you’ll have a roof that meets minimum code requirements.”If Verschuren absolutely can’t afford to lose any headroom in the attic, Holladay adds, “it’s time to raise the roof. Again, we’re talking physics. Sometimes you just have to face facts.”Nate G understands why Aerogel insulation performs as well as it does, but Spaceloft is another question.“I am highly skeptical of the claims of this product because Aerogel is a rigid material, basically a mostly-hollow brick made out silicon,” Nate G writes. “This stuff [Spaceloft] comes in a flexible blanket. I have a hard time believing that it behaves the same as rigid Aerogel. The way Aerogel material works is by trapping a lot of air in billions of nanometer-sized pores. In a solid material, the integrity of these pores can be guaranteed. In a flexible sheet, how can it?”And then there is the expense.“But let’s say I’m wrong that this stuff really performs as advertised,” Nate G adds. “The best price they offer is $95/inch thick/square foot. By contrast, conventional insulation materials are literally in the ballpark range of to 100 times less expensive. At 3 1/2 inches thick, you’re paying $332 per square foot of roof. You could, like, demolish the house and build a whole new one for that price given an average-sized attic.”To Holladay, that kind or price tag makes Spaceloft “fairly irrelevant to the everyday concerns of residential builders” even if it performs as advertised. CONSTRUCTION DETAILS Jan Verschuren has a nicely roofed older house, and a problem to go with it. Cedar shingles have been installed over skip sheathing, making for a roof that’s not only historically correct but one that allows air to circulate freely beneath the roof deck. Verschuren’s next objective is to insulate between the 2×4 rafters, and here’s where he has run into a snag.Building codes require at least R-38 worth of insulation in the roof. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a problem, but Verschuren says that he has only the 3 1/2-inch deep rafter bay to work with. He can’t afford to lose any headroom by adding insulation below the rafters, and he’d rather not tear off the roof to add extra insulation on top of the rafters.He’s zeroed in on a type of insulation called Spaceloft with a reported insulating value of R-10 per inch. The distributor’s web site describes Spaceloft as “a flexible aerogel composite blanket.”“So, 3 1/2 iches is all we have, but we’d like to get to an R-50 or thereabouts in our upgrade of this 1925 house built in Climate Zone 4C,” he writes in a Q&A post at GreenBuildingAdvisor. “Spaceloft seems the only option.”Verschuren thinks he can get nine layers of this material in the rafter bays, followed by one or two layers over the bottoms of the rafters.last_img read more

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WC final: Sri Lanka keep Vaas, Randiv on standby for Murali, Mathews

first_imgSri Lanka are flying in veteran left arm swing bowler Chaminda Vaas and young off spinner Suraj Randiv as cover for the injured Angelo Mathews and Muttiah Muralitharan in their squad for the World Cup final against India in Mumbai on April 2.”They picked up a couple of niggles in the last match (semifinal against New Zealand on March 29 in Colombo). So to be on the safe side a couple of guys are flying in tonight. We will be giving those two guys (Mathews and Muralitharan) as long as possible to prove their fitness,” said Lanka coach Trevor Bayliss at a media conference on Thursday. Asked what was wrong with Mathews, Bayliss said “quadriceps muscle (injury).” Muralitharan has been struggling with a knee injury that he sustained in Mumbai against New Zealand in their last league game on March 18 as well as a hamstring problem but Bayliss is confident the world’s highest Test wicket-taker will play his final game before calling it a day from international cricket. “I think his chances are good. He bowled his 10 overs in the semi-final and came through that OK. He is obviously a bit stiff and sore. He has the character and the will to win the World Cup and I will not be surprised if he plays,” the Australian-born coach said. Both Vaas and Randiv are not part of the 15-member Sri Lanka Cup squad and all replacements due to injuries in the squad have to be approved by the International Cricket Council. The 37-year-old Vaas played in his last and 322nd ODI in August, 2008 against India at Colombo. The wily left arm bowler has taken 400 wickets while the 26-year-old Randiv has played 21 ODIs and grabbed 22 wickets.  – With inputs from PTIadvertisementlast_img read more

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Why Google Will Set The Record For The Greatest Monthly Market Cap Drop In Nov 2008

first_img If you were a search-only user of Google and you read a few reports saying that other search engines were better, why wouldn’t you switch to another vendor’s engine?  Basically, the question is, what is stopping someone from doing to Google what Google did to the original search leaders? The following are five reasons I think Google might be overvalued and why I think that when the stock price falls that it will not be a gradual decline, but rather a rapid loss of market capital.   I think the headline will look something like the one above. ranks on each of the major search engines when I query specific terms.  As you can see, Microsoft and Google’s results are not vastly different and I think both their algorithms are starting to “understand” this blog relatively well while I do not think Yahoo’s algorithm “gets” what we are up to at all. I use search engines a ton, so it is important to me that I use the best one.  I have been doing some informal testing between Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft to see if I could figure out whose algorithm produced the best results.  For example, here is a chart showing where Reverse Tipping Point Google has incredibly low switching costs.  As I sit here, I cannot come up with a single product with a lower switching cost than Google search (as a user).  Can you?  One of the few things Yahoo got right early was that it created some other applications with relatively high switching costs, like the My Yahoo portal, Yahoo mail and an address book.  I suspect much of Yahoo’s search traffic (= ad revenue) is a result of users of other applications searching because they were already there.  As you can see from this chart I borrowed from Yellow Pages or Search Engine? Switching Costs Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Quality Parity Google is a company I admire and I still use it constantly, but I am just wondering whether I should be buying the stock (at it’s hair-raising multiples) or shorting the stock…Are you seeing these same patterns in Google?  Do you agree/disagree?  Why? Topics: Google Updatescenter_img Some might argue that Google’s “brand” creates high switching costs.  Over time, I have noticed that Google’s results page has become more and more crowded with advertisements.  For example, I just did a search on “small business marketing” and I got 7 paid results (yellow page ads) and 3 organic results above the fold.  The same search on Yahoo produced 8 ads and 2 organics while Microsoft Live produced 3 ads and 3 organics.  I have seen varying numbers on it, but the vast majority of users prefer to click on an organic result when searching vs. a paid result, so I imagine that this approach would eventually start to wear a bit thin.  In addition, as the markets moves towards parity in the quality of results, I can imagine that there will be interesting pressures on Google (and its competitors) relative to the real estate they take up on advertising. If impartial, smart people were saying that Google’s results were no longer the best and there were very low switching costs, then the “more users” part of this reinforcing loop would break and the advertising revenue would start to go down.  This feels to me like the type of thing that happens quickly, not gradually. NOVEMBER 30, 2008:  GOOGLE Breaks A Nasdaq Record for Largest Market Cap Loss In 1 Month SmallBusiness 2.0 Disruptive threats Another potential issue Google has is that there are a number of new ways to search for things on the internet.  For example, I am a user of del.icio.us and when I search for information there, I often get very interesting results back.  What would constitute a real threat is if some of these new types of search engines avoided acquisition and started merging together in a couple of years:  Digg, del.icio.us, & Snap.com for example. I think it is widely assumed that Google’s algorithm is vastly superior to anything else on the market, but when I look at these search results, I am starting to think that Microsoft is catching up.  I can imagine a point in time where parity might be achieved and where several impartial and credible observers might comment to that effect publicly. Originally published Dec 4, 2006 11:50:00 AM, updated October 20 2016 , over 88% of Google’s traffic is generated from their vanilla search and image search. The thing that is so elegant about Google’s business model today is that they have a positive reinforcing system dynamics loop powering their growth.  The best search engine = More Users –> More Advertiser –> More users –> More advertisers –> etc. Don Dodge’s bloglast_img read more

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ROBBING: Return On Business Blogging Is Not Guaranteed

first_imgIf you have been reading this blog for a while, you likely know that I’m generally a strong proponent of the value of business blogging (particularly for small businesses).  I’ve been advocating the need for small businesses to start blogs as an important part of their Internet Marketing strategy for a while now.  So, why the controversial title for this article?  Simple:  If we’re going to try and rationalize an investment of time, energy and money by attaching an ROI (return on investment) to blogging, we need to be a bit diligent and thoughtful about how we do so.  In any case, here are some of my thoughts on about how to improve your chances of getting a return on investment for your business blogging efforts. ROI Of Blogging So, my points here are not particularly complicated.  My message is simple:  To really get value out of your business blogging efforts, you need to make sure that you are investing sufficient time into the process, measuring what matters and doing something about it.   First (and foremost) you should be looking to find more buyers for whatever it is that you are offering.  This is the best return you can hope for.  Of course, you can’t expect every visitor to your blog to whip out their credit cards (or call one of your sales people), but you can 3. Buyers, Back-links and Brand-Building:  This one’s a bit obvious too.  It is near impossible to demonstrate a return on your blogging investment if do something about it 5. Analyze and Adjust:  have an ROI – but just that an ROI is not guaranteed.  Also, my apologies for the acronym ROBBING (I just couldn’t come up with anything better).  I’m not suggesting that business bloggers are robbing anyone of anything.  All in good jest (and for some percentage of you, the word probably got your attention, thereby increasing the ROI of this article). .  You have to watch what works, and what doesn’t.  Do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.  For example, one thing I’ve learned from writing for two business blogs is that a majority of my readership seems to appreciate my casual, informal style. c) Brand:  a) Buyers:  Improving The Return On Investment For Your Business Blog ”.  As you might suspect, the article (and the associated paper), discusses how to measure the return on investment (ROI) for a blog – and more specifically, a business blog.  Though I have not purchased the paper (it talks too much about big businesses), the article itself has a useful framework for looking at this analytically. Topics: These are the three primary areas of “return” I think businesses should strive for when writing their blog.  I even put them in descending priority order even though the alliteration sounded better with a different order.  You’re welcome.  2. If A Blogger Types In The stuff.  For a more dynamic explanation of this, I encourage you to watch a video interview of  Brian Halligan (my co-founder at HubSpot).  The video is titled “ increase Defining ROI On Business Blogs The article was sparked in part by an article penned by Charlene Li of Forrester who wrote on the topic of “ nobody is reading your blog Lots of business bloggers are diligent about tracking things like their daily traffic, referral sources and other common metrics available through most web analytics tools.  Though all of this is good, it’s not enough – and not nearly as meaningful as the Forest…:  1.  Launching Is Not Enough:  the likelihood that this will occur.  This is done by focusing your content (and your promotional efforts for the content) on the types of visitors that are likely to become clients.   I think too many businesses think that they can simply sign up for a Blogger account, write an article, and call it a day.  This is what I would call the “Look Ma!, I’m Blogging!” phenomenon.  Nothing against Blogger.  It’s just that if you’re actually looking to create a measurable return, it takes more than that.  Stated differently, to get an “R” (i.e. Return) you have to “I” (that is Invest).   I have an uncanny knack for the stating the obvious. b) Back-Links:  real Astute readers will also notice that I am not stating in this article’s title that business blogging ”.  For further reading, I’d also recommend Seth Godin’s article “ If you can’t close a customer, you want back-links.  The world of search engine optimization (SEO) is driven by back-links.  The more people you can get to your blog articles, the more weighting you will have in the search engines, and the more relevant people will “find” you when doing a search.  In fact, you can help test this theory by linking to this article with the words “business blogging” in the anchor text.  (smile).  Originally published Jan 29, 2007 11:42:00 AM, updated October 20 2016 doesn’t ” Simply measuring how your blog is doing in ways that are meaningful is not going far enough.  You need to Business Blogging 4. Measure Something Meaningful:  .  In this case, the value you get from blogging is likely little more than the satisfaction of expressing yourself (and perhaps impressing your friends and family).  So clearly, to get an ROI, you have to find ways to draw visitors to your blog and have them read it.  If you got to this article through one of the popular social news sites (like reddit or digg), that is certainly one way to do it.  There are others ways too.  But all of it hinges on writing content that people are interested in. High Resolution Mistakes Finally, if you can’t get a buyer or a back-link, you can at least build your “brand”.  Although you will likely never have a powerful brand like Coke, Nike or Apple – you can certainly benefit from increased visibility of your business.  Readers of your blog will (hopefully) be left with a positive impression of you, and your company and this could help with future interactions with that individual (and perhaps then, they will become a buyer or give you a back-link). Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more

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Are You Tuned In? Marketing Insights From An Amazon Bestseller

first_img do Originally published Jul 2, 2008 9:13:00 AM, updated July 11 2013 on September 8 in Cambridge, MA. :  Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities That Lead to Business Breakthroughs Seems I’m not the only one that liked the book.  “Tuned In” climbed the charts to #1 last week and is New Rules of Marketing and PR .  That’s impressive. David recently co-authored a new book: 16.  Ask yourself:  Is the problem you are solving urgent?  Is it pervasive in the market?  Are buyers willing to pay to have this problem solved? For those that follow this blog, you know we’re big fans of David Meerman Scott.  We think his best-selling book ” David Meerman Scott useful 12.  Nothing important happens in the office; the answer you’re looking for is outside your building.  Go talk to potential buyers. you increase your chances of building a runaway success of a business?  in the Amazon Top 100 bestsellers.  Not in the business category, but 15.  Data trumps opinion every time. 1.  The tuned in company constantly listens, observes, and understands the problems that buyers are willing to pay money to solve. So, my advice is to go read ” 13.  Don’t use your salespeople for conducting buyer interviews.  Great sales people are great at sales — not necessarily figuring out what How In the meantime, I have captured some of the key points from the book that I found particularly useful.  Apologies if some of them don’t make the most sense out of context (did the best I could while still being reasonably pithy). 6.  Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant.  8.  Communicate directly with your potential customers.  It’s hard to get “tuned in” if there’s someone in the middle. .  And, it addresses a question I have struggled with for years:  will Tuned In 5.  Existing customers frame their view of your future based on incremental improvements to their 2.  From the makers of the market-leading “Victor” brand of mouse-trap on the failure of a new “better mouse-trap” they launched to beat the Victor:  “We should have spent more time researching housewives, and less time researching mice.” Tuned In Building A “Tuned In” Business 18.  Tuned in companies think like a publisher and create compelling online content. speak live at the Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Inbound Marketing Summit 11.  Semantics can make a difference.  Disney does not build rides, it “creates adventures”.  It calls employees “cast members”.  They wear “costumes”, not uniforms.  They serve “guests”, not customers.  3.  Focusing on your competitors is a tit-for-tat game that rarely produces a market leader.  4.  Your existing customers represent a small percentage of your opportunity, they have different market problems than non-customers.  “. sell.  14.  Absent any real data, conference rooms are just full of opinions. experiences. You can see still 7.  Don’t assume that because you’re an expert in a market or industry you know more than your buyers about how your product can solve their problems. overall 10.  You don’t have to be the first to identify a market opportunity.  The founders of Intuit (makers of Quicken) joke about having had the 47th mover advantage. 17.  It is too easy to build marketing programs around what the organization wants to say rather than what the buyer wants to hear. If you’ve read the book or have comments on some of the above points, please leave a comment and extend the conversation.  — ” is a must-read for all modern marketing mavens.  past I had the opportunity to review an early draft of the book several months ago (I read it on my last trip to Mumbai, India).  It was riveting.  And, I’m not just saying that because David is an advisor to HubSpot (which he is) or because he mentioned HubSpot in the book (which he did — thanks David!) but because the book is insightful and 9.  Most businesses try to buy their way in with expensive advertising or beg their way in by convincing media to write about them.  Be different.  Say something useful and interesting.last_img read more

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Help! Our VP of Sales Wants My Job

first_img Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Twitter Marketing Topics: If you had access to 373K new followers for a day, what would you say?That’s a question that HubSpot’s Phil Harrell, VP Corporate Division, is currently contemplating as he prepares to take on an entirely new role here: Social Media Manager.Yeah, you heard me right.On Monday, March 3rd, Phil Harrell will be taking over my job as Social Media Manager in addition to the job of HubSpot CMO, Mike Volpe. Why? He won it. During HubSpot’s 4th Annual Charity Auction, Phil purchased “@HubSpot for a day” and “CMO for a day” for a grand total of $875. This money went to Read to a Child, Phil’s charity of choice.In preparation for the big day, Phil and I sat down to go over the protocol for running HubSpot’s Twitter account. As it turns out, there’s a lot to think about (and a lot to be careful about) when you’re speaking in front of 373K people, on behalf of a company. Here’s some tangible advice I gave to Phil on ways he could be most successful:Have a Goal In Mind … And Stick to ItTo get an idea of Phil’s goals, I asked him why he chose to bid on @HubSpot for a day. He said:If you ask me, he’s already off to a great start simply because he has a clear goal in mind. This goal is not only helpful to him as the Corporate Divisions VP, but it’s also helpful to the company as a whole.Compile Great Content … And Schedule ItSince Phil’s ultimate goal is to build awareness around enterprise sales and marketing, I suggested he tap the resources he likes to read first. If he’s interested in the content, surely someone else at his level would be interested in that content, too.Next, since Phil actually paid good money to get access to HubSpot’s Twitter followers, I suggested that he promote himself in some way. Not tweet selfies and start bragging about how great he is, but I did advise that he share his knowledge with others. He’ll be doing this through his personal blog, SlideShare presentations, and general Q&A on HubSpot’s Twitter account.Finally, once Phil compiles all the content he wants to share, I told him to schedule it through HubSpot’s Social Inbox. This way Phil can participate in impromptu engagement during the day and worry less about the stuff that he can prep ahead of time. The @HubSpot account gets over 1,000 mentions per day, so he’ll need all hands on deck for interacting and responding.Add Value … And Align It With Your Buyer PersonasAs a Social Media Manager, one question I ask myself every day is: “Will this tweet/post add some kind of value to our audience’s life?”Value could mean many different things — including entertainment or education — and it’ll certainly change depending on your goals and buyer personas. But if the answer to this question is “yes,” then I proceed with scheduling the tweet or post. If the answer isn’t clear, I usually end up nixing it … because if I’m not clear about the value, our audience won’t be clear about it, either.Optimize Your Tweets … And Be Mindful of Your MessagingSince the average shelf life of a tweet is only 3 hours, I wanted Phil to be mindful of his messaging so he could get the biggest bang for his buck. I suggested he should optimize for clicks from the audience he’s trying to reach, which means he needs to think about writing his tweets differently than if he were optimizing for retweets.Something that works really well for HubSpot normally is asking a question, then following up with an action statement and a link. To use a very general example, a highly clickable tweet might say “Is your marketing stale? Read this ebook to find out: [link]” Nobody wants to think their marketing is going stale, so they’ll click the link just to make sure. ;-)Add Personality … But Not Too MuchOther messaging tips I gave Phil were related to tone. As a brand, it’s important to be professional, but it’s equally as important to have a touch of personality. The last thing someone wants is to talk to a wall that won’t talk back. People like talking to other people, so brands need to show that real human beings are there on the other end.Have a Sense of Humor … You Might Get Picked On ;-)Last year, our CEO and Co-founder, Brian Halligan, donated $600 to the Animal Rescue League of Boston to run HubSpot’s Twitter account. He was heckled by @DunkinDonuts and @BostonVC (in a loving kinda way) during his time running the account. I was proud to see that he stayed strong and came out of it with a smile on his face.The moral of the story here is that you never know who will mention you; you have to be prepared for absolutely anything. The happy, the sad, and the trolls. Just remember that on top of it all, you’re a human and it’s okay to act that way.I’m really excited to have some fresh new perspective on the HubSpot Twitter account, and I think Phil Harrell will be a great source of quality content for anyone who wants to come hang out with us on Twitter on Monday. Be sure to follow him at @HubSpot on Monday, March 3rd, so you can join in on the fun! Originally published Feb 28, 2014 3:00:00 PM, updated February 01 2017last_img read more

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8 Ways Home Builders Can Use Houzz for Lead Generation

first_img Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack If you have business partners like interior designers or landscapers that are also on Houzz, it’s helpful to request reviews from them, as well. Providing reviews for your partners will help motivate them to provide reviews for you. This will help both of you rank higher for your services and geographic locations.3) Link Projects to Blog PostsWhen you add a project to your Houzz profile, you can include an external link to provide more information on that project. Therefore, we recommend creating a blog post on your website that expands on each Houzz project. You can then include the link to that blog post in the actual Houzz project. This strategy will help increase traffic to your website, provide additional blog content, and encourage people to learn more information about your company beyond what’s in your Houzz profile. It could also lead to new blog subscribers. Plus, if you include calls-to-action in your blog posts, you will encourage lead generation. By including a call-to-action that links to a landing page with a form to download a piece of valuable content (such as a buyer’s guide), you may generate tangible leads that you can follow up with. 4) Engage Users Through “Questions” and “Advice” FeaturesHouzz provides a “Questions” feature that allows users to ask you questions about your projects. Be sure to monitor your Houzz profile closely so you can respond to questions in a very timely manner. Timeliness is key for turning someone who has posed a question into an actual lead. Responding quickly shows you are a tentative builder that cares. It also helps you ensure you connect with the user when they are still in the right mindset. If you respond several days after the question is asked, the user may have received his answer somewhere else, or he may have become preoccupied with something else. Responding in a detailed and thorough manner is also important because it shows you are an expert. This is why the questions feature is so valuable. It helps you show that you are a tentative, caring, expert home builder. And who wouldn’t want to hire a home builder like that?Houzz also offers an “Advice” feature. Engaging in discussions here helps you obtain additional exposure and establish your expertise. Spend time answering questions and contributing valuable insight to discussions. Both the “Questions” and “Advice” features allow you to engage one-on-one with users, and start building relationships. 5) Utilize Bookmarks for CRMThe “Bookmarks” feature allows you to keep track of your favorite discussions on Houzz. If you are communicating with potential leads in discussions, it may be helpful to note that in your CRM software. Bookmarking your discussions will allow you to easily return to those discussions and review your interactions so you can record information about the contact in your CRM system.6) Add a Houzz Badge or Widget to Your WebsiteAdding a Houzz badge or widget to your website’s home page will help boost your ranking in the Houzz directory. There are several badges to choose from, including a badge that simply indicates you have a Houzz profile to badges that indicate any special Houzz recognitions you may have received.Houzz also offers widgets that will allow you to display your Houzz reviews or add a slideshow of your Houzz projects to your website. Adding these features to your website will help demonstrate your company’s status and expertise to visitors who enjoy and trust Houzz as a resource.7) Submit a Project to be an Editorial FeatureSubmit one of your projects to Houzz’s editorial review team for a chance to be become the subject of a featured article on Houzz, such as their “Room of the Day” or “Kitchen of the Week” articles. If you are selected, you’ll receive free national exposure from one of the most important websites in the home building industry. These articles are based solely on merit; no one can pay to be selected. So, they act as a great indicator of your company’s expertise and creativity.  If you are selected, you can promote the article via your other marketing channels such as social networks, email marketing, and your blog. 8) Complete Your Profile in DetailThis may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth stating. The goal of completing and maintaining your profile isn’t to get it done so you can move on to something else. The goal is to ensure your target audience finds you on Houzz and then takes an additional action like visiting your website or contacting you. So, invest the time into filling out your profile in detail. Be sure you take advantage of the opportunity Houzz gives to link to all your social networks. If people begin to connect with you in other social networks, they will discover your blog posts and other valuable content. This will help drive them to your website and engage them in lead nurturing.  The Bottom LineIt’s not necessary to be active in all social networks; just the networks that are most effective for your industry. For builders, Houzz is arguably the most important social network for driving website traffic and leads. As we’ve described, it can also help increase your search engine and media exposure. These eight tips will help you get the most marketing leverage and lead generation potential out of Houzz. Topics: Lead Generationcenter_img Since its inception in 2009, Houzz.com has quickly become a valuable tool to help home builders increase online exposure. According to Houzz, the site is home to 25 million users looking for unique home design ideas and possessing an average household income of $125,000.For home builders, there’s no question the target audience is there. The challenge lies in maximizing Houzz exposure to convert Houzz users into leads you can actually follow up with.These eight tips will help you go from simply having a Houzz profile to managing a Houzz presence that produces tangible leads. 1) Include Strategic KeywordsBe sure your target audience discovers your profile when they search Houzz for terms that matter to them by including keywords in your business description and your projects. For example, a Dallas home buyer in the market for a custom builder may want to see examples of unique exteriors on Houzz created by Dallas-area home builders. To find these examples, they might search “Dallas exteriors.” If you’re a Dallas builder, you would want to appear in this search. Therefore, builders should include relevant geographic terms in addition to terms that describe the nature of the project or photo. For example, instead of titling your project “Kitchen Remodel”, consider calling it “Dallas Kitchen Remodel.”When you add a project, there is a specific section to include keywords. To add keywords to an existing project, simply click “edit” on any photo and you will see the keywords section appear. Houzz provides a quick and easy YouTube tutorial to help you add keywords correctly.Take time to add as many relevant keywords as possible in this section. Be sure to include the same type of relevant keywords in the “Description” field of your projects. Be as detailed as possible with these descriptions. It takes time but it’s worth it because it will help more people find you. Keywords are also important because Houzz profiles are indexed by Google. So, when someone searches a term like “Dallas builders” in Google, Houzz’s list of Dallas builders shows up in search results. When someone clicks on that search result, they see a list of local builders with reviews and examples of work.So, it’s extremely valuable to appear in these Houzz lists. It’s even more valuable to appear in a high position. One of the best ways to improve your ranking in these lists is by increasing your company’s reviews on Houzz. 2) Increase ReviewsThe best sales leads have always come from word-of-mouth referrals. Online reviews are often almost as valuable as a friend recommending your company to another friend. Today’s consumers conduct a lot of research before making purchases. Online reviews are one resource that people regard heavily when making a large purchase like a home.  Houzz reviews are no different, and the more you receive, the higher you are likely to rank in the Houzz directory for your geographic area. Therefore, you should encourage your clients to submit reviews. Houzz makes this really easy with their “Get Reviews” feature.  You can send an email straight from the Houzz platform to your clients requesting a review. The email contains a link that will take your client straight to the location where they can submit a review. Houzz provides a quick YouTube tutorial for this feature, as well.  Originally published Apr 13, 2015 11:00:00 AM, updated March 31 2016last_img read more

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Smith, Warner meet on a cricket field for the first time since ball-tampering saga

first_imgSteve Smith missed a half century but claimed bragging rights over his suspended international teammate David Warner when their teams met Saturday in Sydney club cricket.Almost 2,000 spectators turned out to watch the one-day match which featured a contest between Smith and his former vice-captain Warner, both suspended from top cricket in Australia for 12 months over their roles in the ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town, South Africa, last March.At the toss, Shane Watson, who was turning out alongside Smith, shook hands and exchanged a few words with Warner. Smith too offered a courteous “morning” to Warner as he passed..@davidwarner31 and @stevesmith49 at Coogee Oval in Sydney today pic.twitter.com/x5fWJ3OHsEcricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) November 10, 2018Smith made 48 from 71 balls and also took a wicket in the clash between his Sutherland team and Warner’s Randwick-Petersham at Sydney’s Coogee Oval.Smith had earlier picked up a wicket, ending with figures of 1/35 from his 10 overs, and took a catch too in the deep.Warner was out for 13 as Randwick-Petersham batted first, caught at gully by Austin Waugh, son of former Test captain Steve Waugh, who was a spectator at the match.Smith and Warner’s performances were over-shadowed by their former Australia teammate Watson, who scored 63 from 41 balls for Sutherland, including five sixes.According to a report in Cricket Australia, both Smith and Warner signed autographs and posed with fans in attendance at the local club ground. The pair too were at ease with each other too, with this being the first time they have been on the same cricket field since the ball-tampering scandal.advertisementREAD – Cricket Australia may lift bans on Steve Smith, David WarnerSmith and Warner are into the 8th month of their one year bans and talks from Cricket Australia (CA) suggest that the bans may be reduced.CA has come under pressure from the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) to end the bans following the release of the Longstaff review, which laid some of the blame for the fiasco at the door of the board.A depleted Australia have struggled to recover from the crisis, with the Test team losing two of their last three matches since Tim Paine took over the captaincy in South Africa. While the Aaron Finch-led ODI team finally managed to break their seven-match losing streak in the 2nd ODI against South Africa on Friday.(With inputs from AP and Reuters)last_img read more

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