Thursday, March 26, 2015

You've Been Targeted

If you've ever used Google to search for something, odds are that you've been targeted. Web sites and services feed advertising to you based on your searches - and in some cases, based on the content of your email or social media messages. This sounds intrusive, but it could actually be a win-win situation. From your perspective, if you are searching for a romantic Parisian hotel for your second honeymoon, advertisements for holiday deals in the French capital might be interesting to you - as a consumer, you win! From another perspective, you are more likely to click on "Romantic hotels in Paris" than you would on "$200 diesel lawnmowers" - advertisers win!

Shall we sit around the browser, hold hands, and sing Kumbaya? Not quite. This cozy consumer/advertiser arrangement does have a few flaws. For starters, targeted advertising is based on search history. Most often, the advertised products and services are those I have already considered. What I really want are purchasing options similar to what I have already searched. So if I searched for "Dell Latitude" laptops, serving up more advertising for "Dell Latitude" might not be particularly helpful. But if the advertising was for "HP Elitebook", or "Lenovo 410", and the advertising mentioned that they are similar models to the one I've been searching for, I might be more inclined to click through.

So much advertising - targeted or not - forces its way onto my websites that I no longer see it. The ubiquitous nature of the advertising has made them invisible to me.

Another problem with this advertising model is that quite often, targeted advertising is completely off the mark. For instance, there was a time when I was doing a lot of uploading to my site, hosted by Bluehost. A lot of my Internet browser history had URLs ending with bluehost.com. Before I knew it, advertising for Bluehost displayed on almost every web site I visited. I already have a Bluehost account. I already know about the services they offer. I certainly don't need to see the special prices they are offering first-time members.

Then there's the big one: privacy. For targeted advertising to work, your online habits need to be analyzed so that meaningful advertising can be pushed to you. The fact that a third-party has this kind of information can be disconcerting. However, the data is completely anonymized. As explained in the following video, the advertisers are not concerned with what your name is, or where you live. Rather, they are solely interested in what interests you. Once they know that, they can advertise those things to you.


You can't outrun advertising. Most companies offer you the option to opt-out from targeted advertising, but that won't stop them from collecting data about you. Opting out just stops them from using your data to advertise to you. You'll still get ads, just not advertisements that are even of the slightest interest to you whatsoever.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Five Ways to End Procrastination

I wanted to procrastinate today, but I'll push it off until tomorrow.

There are many reasons why we purposefully delay doing the things we know should be done. Here are five ways to beat the procrastination blues.

1) Break it down
If the task is too big and you don't know where to start, break it down into lots of smaller tasks. For example, don't tell yourself that you need to edit a 250-page manual. Instead, tell yourself that you need to edit chapter 1. When that is done, edit chapter 2. Similarly, when you need to clean a room, mentally divide it into sections and concentrate on cleaning area 1. When that is done, focus on area 2. In effect, you create small, achievable goals, which give you a sense of accomplishment as you cross each one off your list.

2) Start strong
This is an interesting one because you could look at it in two opposite ways, both of which work, depending on your personality. Either start with the easy tasks, so that you get a bunch of things out of the way early on in the day (making you feel productive), or start with the difficult tasks so that you tackle them when you are fresh and rearing to go. Do the easy tasks when you are feeling tired and sluggish after lunch or at the end of the day.

3) Schedule it
I read an article by a novelist who described his strict daily schedule, which included several rounds of one hour of focused work, followed by a fifteen-minute walk around the block. His experience was that scheduling frequent breaks meant that he wasn't tempted to interrupt his work focus. Also, the breaks were away from the computer and allowed him time to think, which also helped his creative process.

4) Roll up your sleeves and get on with it
That uncomfortable phone call that you have to make, or that difficult meeting that you have to take won't happen by themselves. Often, the longer you delay doing something, the more difficult it is and the more awkward it becomes. Realize that it is to your benefit to do the thing you don't like. Imagine the positive feelings you will have once it is over. Take a deep breath, grit your teeth, and get it done.

5) Reward Bundling
Combine the activity you don't like doing with an activity you do like doing. For example, run for an hour on the treadmill and at the same time watch your favorite show or listen to your favorite podcast or audio book. The key is to provide yourself with the reward at the same time as you do the unpleasant task, not before or after. If you have good self-control, make sure not to do any of the reward activities unless you combine it with an activity you don't particularly like, but have to do. This makes reward bundling even more powerful. You might find that, instead of dreading the treadmill, you look forward to going to the gym.


So now, when that dreaded task is staring you down, you have five ways to stand tall, look it square in the eye and get the job done.

Yossi's Magazine: Everyone Needs One of These www.ykarp.com/magazine
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Monday, March 16, 2015

Welcome to the Service Economy

During the last few years, almost every single industry in the world has undergone a quiet revolution. The service economy is here, and if you run a business and don't know what that is, you'd better start paying attention.

It used to be that "service industries", such as hotels, needed to focus on providing excellent customer service. It is their business to give you a positive experience that you'll remember the next time you are looking for a service provider. "Product industries", such as car manufacturers, needed to focus on providing quality goods so that you'll return to that brand when you need to buy that product again.

While quality is still very important, consumers today are looking for a great experience. In other words, quality matters less than service. Consumers will just as easily buy from the next business if their customer experience at yours is sub-standard.

Though important, quality, features, and even price are no longer the key differentiators between products. How the customer feels before, during, and after the sale is far more meaningful to modern-day consumers.

So the new secret to success is to make sure that your customers walk away with a positive feeling about the service they received while engaging with your company. This includes your website, service staff, ordering process, returns policy, customer follow-up - the entire experience.

Welcome to the service economy.

Yossi's Magazine: Everyone Needs One of These www.ykarp.com/magazine
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