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Why I left Yahoo to join Solohealth

17 Jul

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked in the past 3 weeks why I’m leaving Yahoo or where are you going, I’d be a little wealthier. That being said, figured the easiest and fastest way to address this is to add it to the blog.

First, if you came here to read about the skewering and downfall of Yahoo you can stop reading. That is not what this is. Yahoo provided me with opportunities and education that I’m not sure I could have gotten elsewhere. I’ve met some of the most intelligent people in the digital space over that time and established friendships that will last forever. I’m not naming names because honestly it would take too long. Sure, Yahoo has it challenges but a lot of companies are envious of the position Yahoo is in. This was about the opportunity that presented itself.

I’ve been working in digital media sales since 1998, and because of this my phone rings quite often from recruiters. I’ve had people reach out for opportunities big and small. Major social sites, gaming sites, content creation and others have expressed interest. I decided that when/if I moved I wanted go to a real small startup that provided me an opportunity to grow, be challenged and utilize all my interests.

Solohealth fit that criteria, plus a few others.

The things I was seeking in the next company were as follows:

  1.  Is the product uniquely differentiated
  2. Can it cause disruption in the market
  3. Is it focused

So for those wondering what Solohealth is, I will do my best to sum it up after 1 week.

“We help businesses engage consumers with precision targeted media and content integration, through various health assessments that occur inside retailers stores.” (Yes, it needs work, but that is where I’m at) Consumers are literally logging onto the web at stores like Wal-Mart, Publix, Sam’s Club, CVS and others I can’t mention, and doing health assessments on areas like BMI, Blood Pressure, Vision, Pain Management and others.

Anyone that knows me understands my unique interest in working with CPG manufacturers. I’ve always said half the battle is getting the consumer into the store; the other half is to get them to buy. Well we’ve eliminated the first barrier and depending on the studies you read 65-75% of all purchase decisions happen inside the store.

This solution can help so many businesses ranging from OTC, Pharma, CPG and even companies like Subway and McDonald’s which operate restaurants in Wal-Mart as well as I’m sure a 100 other categories I haven’t thought of yet.

The other thing that appealed to me was our ability to actually work with businesses to integrate content and questions right within the assessments. I can go on and on about the opportunities but that is for another post.

I’ve enjoyed the startups I’ve been part of before, going all the way back to Citysearch in 1998 or when we opened the WebMD office in Chicago. My passion for product development, sales, true measurement at retail, building a team from the ground up has all come together in this role.

I don’t doubt challenges are ahead, I’ve seen a few, but the team at Solohealth is amazing. When you can sit down with the VP of Product and give some feedback and he takes the feedback and starts to think how to implement quickly is an awesome experience. The team is all working, with passion, towards the same goals. They’ve accomplished so much the past 6 months and I can’t wait to help keep the pedal down as we grow quickly. I’ve got a team to build across the country and a lot of people asking to be part of the national rollout.

My tweeting has slowed and my FB surfing will be cut back, but I can’t wait to look back in 2-3 years and see how far we’ve come and think about where we started.

I couldn’t do any of this without everything I’ve learned from my first days at Citysearch to the last 6 years at Yahoo. It was hard to leave Yahoo, it was a part of me, and always will be, but I’m excited to be part of something special at Solohealth.

Can Groupon, Livingsocial and Other Group Buying Platforms Drive Loyalty?

21 Apr

Three years ago at a street festival in Chicago some women asked me if I wanted to sign up for Groupon. What the heck is Groupon I said? Multiple Groupons later I’m a huge fan. But do the marketers who use Groupon like a consumer like me? Probably not.

I just had an opportunity to participate in the Mobile #AiMA luncheon where Groupon, Yahoo and Insight Express all shared great data on the evolution of mobile media. Each individual shared useful information on trends in the marketplace and how consumer behavior is changing rapidly.

During that conversation Matt Drinkwater, VP of Sales East Coast for Groupon, shared with the group that Groupon will be launching in Chicago an opportunity for consumers to choose what they are looking for when they launch the app. For instance you could see a screen with choices ranging from Pampered, Eat, Shop and so on. Groupon is calling it Grouponnow. To be honest I think it is brilliant for both the consumer and the advertiser. The example that Matt shared was that Subway wants to spike breakfast, you would choose eat, and then find a Subway offer that would need to be redeemed by within the next 6 hours.

During the Q&A the question was posed on how many people return to stores, restaurants or shops after using a Groupon. Matt shared that 89% of all advertisers would participate in Groupon again. Just a quick note on the economics of Groupon as I understand it. If you run an offer for $10 worht of product or services for $5.00, Groupon gets $2.50 of that $5.00. So essentially you are giving $10 in product or services for $2.50. I’m not sure where Matt saw the 89% number but it did get me thinkiing about my own behavior on group buying platforms.

I’ve bought numerous Groupon’s, Livingsocials, Hotdealslive, and others. In fact, part of my daily routine is to visit 8coupons.com which aggregates all the deals locally from around the web.

After the individual posed the question to Matt a small focus group started at our table and surprisingly most people say they are a “one and done” crowd. I will admit that most of my group buying experiences result in me not visiting again. I’d put it at close to 75% of all businesses I visit through group buying I never visit again. On the other hand it did get me to visit places that I would have never visited beforehand.

Gawker had a piece on the love/hate of group buying which can be found here http://gawker.com/#!5787645/groupon-the-business-owner-experience
The more people I talk to, the more people say that they really don’t visit or go back to the places that they buy the deals from.

So the common response is that running a group buying deal isn’t a good investment but other things need to be kept in mind. Here are just a few:

1. What’s the value of a consumer who doesn’t buy but is exposed?
2. Driving short term demand at a loss is still good if a certain percentage returns? (Each business should understand this when they go into the deal)
3. If a consumer spends more on services or product because they have a Groupon, what does that due for your business?

I also sometimes questions the businesses that run group buying discounts. Just this morning I saw an offer for Aqua Bistro, which looked interesting. After reading a few reviews on Yelp it sounds overprices and the service is not good. If the prices are already 50% marked up you are not getting a discount.

So back the question at hand, does group buying drive loyalty? I’d say the answer is not very often. The caveats are when the service or product is exceptional. Unfortunately my experiences have been good, not great. This is okay, you don’t need everyone to be a repeat customer. Do I think we are going through a fundamental change on how people buy things? Absolutelty. I’ve gotten to the point if I don’t buy something with a group buying offer, on sale or that days special it is almost a disappointment. I do think I’m an exception to the rule. But what happens when more and more people start to think this way.

Group buying will not go away and is predicted to be a $6 billion dollar revenue in 2015 from the $873 million it is today as reported by BIA/Kelsey.

At the end of the day I think group buying has a place for businesses moving forward, and I think it is a big one. The ROI will work in some scenarios and in others it probably won’t. Then again isn’t that like most advertising.

On a side note my good friends at General Mills just did the first CPG Groupon today. Looking forward to hearing how that worked for the promotions team. I give them credit for trying something different.

Love to hear what you think.