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Solar Power Generation: Growth in L.A. and the Southwest

2012 October 19
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October 2012 has seen significant decisions made for clean energy, particularly solar power generation, in the US, southwest, and California. I get pretty excited at news like this – clean energy has a bright future here.

Los Angeles Approves LADWP Clean Energy Plan

Solar PV power generationAccording to an article in the Huffington Post, the city of Los Angeles has made an impressive move to invest in clean power sources — particularly solar power generation — replacing dependence on coal-fired plants.  This is a smart move for many reasons, the most obvious one being reducing pollution from burning fossil fuels. It’s also smart for long-term savings. Even considering the initial investment, they will save a significant portion of the (currently) $500 million spent on coal each year. And as the cost of coal rises, that savings will be even greater.

One of the things I like best about this priority is that they are clearly not depending exclusively on developing new power plants, but on providing incentives for homeowners and businesses to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate power for their own buildings which can then feed excess power back into the L.A. grid. It’s a brilliant way to reduce demand on power plants, and allows people to save significantly on their electric power bills while distributing solar power generation across a very wide area and spectrum of sources. And everyone benefits from cleaner air.

More exciting benefits with this approach include the increase of employment opportunities in construction, remodeling, electrical, solar, wind, and geothermal installation services. It can also boost local manufacturing jobs, since there are several manufacturers of solar photovoltaics, panels, wind turbines, and components in the L.A. region.

Concentrating solar power generating plantSolar Power Generation Projects in the Southwest

But that’s not all. There are a huge number of solar power projects across the country. Here’s a summary from the Solar Energy Industries Association:

  • “There are over 480 major solar projects currently in the database, representing over 31 GW (gigawatts) of capacity.
  • The list shows that there is over 2.2 GW of major solar projects currently operating.
  • There remains an enormous amount of capacity in the pipeline, with over 29 GW of PV (photovoltaic) and CSP (concentrated solar power) projects either under construction or under develop”

Check out the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Interactive Map of current solar power generation projects. Significant for the southwest is not only the number but the scale of solar power plants, both PV and concentrators.

SEIA solar power generation projects map image

Image courtesy SEIA

As Yahoo Finance reports in their article “Plan to streamline solar development in West OK’d” dated October 12, 2012: “Federal officials on Friday approved a plan that sets aside 445 square miles of public land for the development of large-scale solar power plants, cementing a new government approach to renewable energy development in the West after years of delays and false starts”.

Included in this plan is land designated as 17 new “solar energy zones” covering 285,000 acres in the six southwestern states. 153,627 acres – more that half the total area – is in Southern California alone. Furthermore, an additional area totaling almost 30,000 square miles was marked by the US Dept. of the Interior as “variance zones” – land on which developers may propose solar projects.

SEIA Solar Power Generation Projects Interactive Map Image SW section

Image courtesy of NASA, © 2012 Microsoft Corporation, © 2010 NAVTEQ; Data collected and indicated by SEIA

No matter how you slice it, nationwide that’s a huge number of projects representing an increase of more than 14 times the current solar power generating capacity in gigawatts. Even if only half of them are built, that represents a 7x growth. In the six southwest states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado and New Mexico represent most of the land in this landmark decision, the majority in California alone.

The days of slow incremental solar power development appear to be ending. This bodes well for dreams of energy independence, job growth, and cleaner air and water.

US Voters Want Solar Energy

2012 October 14
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Hart Research US Voter Solar Energy Survey Results 2012With so many political footballs getting kicked around this year, I’d like to help put one of those footballs across the goal line for everyone. A recent online survey makes it very clear that US voters want solar energy and it doesn’t seem to make much difference what party they belong to.

The Results of the Survey

The report on the survey shows that 92%  – nine out of ten – of registered voters replied that it was “very” or “somewhat” important that the United States develop and use solar power. What really got my attention was that most respondents felt this way regardless of party affiliation:

  • 84% of Republicans
  • 95% of independents
  • 98% of Democrats

The results were similar when people were asked how they view solar energy, with 85% responding favorably.  Another 78% indicated that the federal government should provide incentives. People felt that harnessing solar energy for power generation would “definitely” or “probably” be good for the US in several ways:

  • 97%: Good for environment
  • 88%: Help reduce dependence on foreign oil
  • 87%: Help reduce cost of electricity
  • 86%: Good for American jobs and the economy

Learn more

The survey of 1,206 adults was conducted by conducted by the independent polling firm Hart Research Associates. It was released Tuesday, October 2, 2012. The report on the survey is available for viewing on Slideshare.com.

Politicians Need to Listen and Act

This survey demonstrates that making use of solar energy as a power source, and making the technology more available to businesses and residents is not a political issue. It is what most of the voting population wants. Our politicians need to stop kicking this  back and forth as if it were an issue, and listen to what we, the people, are telling all of them: US voters want solar energy.

Reducing Energy Waste in Telecommunications

2012 July 31
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by Tom Watson

This is rather old news to the communications technology business, but I doubt very many people outside that field know about it: “GreenTouch Initiative”.  Organized by Bell Labs, a division of Alcatel-Lucent, their goal is to reduce communication network energy usage 1000-fold.

Greentouch logoMost of the energy usage reduction we learn about in media is pointed at automotive fuel efficiency and light bulb wattage, keeping them (more or less) in the front of our minds. Few of us, however, hear or think about the less obvious ways in which we use energy at work and at home, like landline and cellular-based telecommunications. Every time we pull up a web site, run an app that accesses information somewhere else, or make a phone call whether land line or cellular we are accessing the communication network, and using electricity, even when we are using battery-powered devices. Reducing this energy usage even a little can save a lot on electricity use.

The GreenTouch Initiative goal of 1,000-fold reduction is going to make a lot more than just a dent in energy usage. Simply put, it is “…roughly equivalent to being able to power the world’s communications networks, including the Internet, for three years using the same amount of energy that it currently takes to run them for a single day.” -  GreenTouch Initiative press release, January 2010. (read the release)

This is a truly important initiative. Although landline usage is dropping (the Economist) and high-speed broadband cable growth has slowed (European Communications, DailyIPTV), mobile communications continues to grow dramatically with the speedy rise of smartphones and tablet computers worldwide (MIT). Energy efficiency must also grow dramatically in order to offset the additional consumption due to that growth, while still reducing overall energy consumption. It is the consortium’s finding, according to research conducted by Bell Labs, that communications network energy efficiency can be improved 10,000 times.

Greentouch Projects image

According to the Green Touch Initiative itself:  “Even a 2% contribution to global emissions and energy consumption is significant – the network component of this represents some 250-300 million tons of carbon emissions. This is equivalent to 50 million automobiles or 20% of the cars in the United States.” Their goal is to accomplish this in three to five years, and their launch was in January 2010. Visit the GreenTouch web site to learn more about the progress of this initiative www.greentouch.org, and check out their projects.

If you are aware of other similar initiatives to reduce energy waste – or even reduction of waste in the design, manufacture, and distribution of goods – share it here in Comments.

What is “Responsible Marketing”?

2012 July 28
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by Tom Watson

I just finished reading Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley’s book, The Responsible Company, and enjoyed it immensely. There is so much there that resonates with my own thoughts and philosophy on the subject of “responsibility” in a commercial, industrial, organizational – and even personal – context. The Responsible Company

First, I find their argument regarding the use of the word “sustainability” to be a very reasonable and honest one. Simply illustrated, the native Americans lived “sustainably”; where we, as a post industrial revolution society clearly do not. I have a hard time finding very many things that I do or I use that are truly “sustainable”. That doesn’t mean it’s not important to me, but it means that my efforts fall far short of what would truly fit an honest definition of the word.

So, what is “responsible marketing”? Is it using eco-friendly materials, using less paper, using more digital technology to save on materials and cost of delivery? Sure, that’s part of it. But the core element of responsible marketing is truth. Sure, we need to romanticize our products and services somewhat to put them in their best light, but that is something that can be done truthfully, and not manipulatively.

Don't Buy This JacketLet’s use an example from Chouinard’s company, Patagonia. Their marketing truthfully but attractively presents the benefits to the prospect. Neither the product design quality nor the prices are compromised by the temptation to go cheap and appeal to a larger audience to expand volume at any cost. They stick to their expressed mission of reducing, repairing, reusing, recycling and provide appropriate services. Their integrity is probably best displayed in their November 2011 advertising campaign: “Don’t Buy This Jacket”. Read the AdWeek article  covering the ad, and a broader article about Patagonia’s approach by FastCompany. It sounds like reverse psychology, but they really meant it. Their goal was actually to help reduce the wasteful buying frenzy of “Black Friday”, including sales of their own apparel. That’s extremely honest marketing.

A more conventional and less extreme example is Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) for whom I worked for many years. I can’t speak for their approach today, but when they were smaller and younger, they built their business on honest marketing beginning with their products. HP wanted to make sure that the customer got the performance they were expecting so they designed the equipment to exceed performance expectation. This ensured that the product met all expectations. They also designed equipment to meet some extreme usage situations. When we stated the performance specs in marketing, we understated them – and the understated specs still exceeded the competition’s. The products were built to last. One ad campaign chronicled real equipment recovered from actual – not staged – disastrous situations such as being dropped in a lake or from a plane. After being dried and powered-up, the equipment still worked. This kind of honesty translated into a rock-solid reputation that was a significant factor in growing this company from $3 billion annual revenue in 1980 to $140 billion today.

Perhaps you are wondering how that would make a difference in becoming a “responsible” company.

Honest claims will persuade only those who are most likely to benefit from what is sold. It is wasteful to sell something to someone who ultimately does not need it – they will not use it and eventually throw it away, adding to the landfills. But even if they don’t throw it away, the company has expended energy and used resources to produce and deliver something the buyer does not need. The best sales people know that  sales is simply matching the right buyer up with the right product or service, not trying to convince or “sell” them.

Honest claims work by helping to maintain the focus on the right target audience. In fact, the process begins starting when the product is designed and then produced and delivered with high standards, quality and efficiency. The product or service will truly speak for itself and ultimately validate itself. Marketing simply makes the introduction, provides the qualification information to sales, helps sales make the initial connection. The product or service delivers home the point when the buyer receives and experiences all aspects of the product from delivery, packaging, usability, quality, support, all the way through durability. Marketing is empty and proved a lie when the product does not live up to the expectations marketing builds up, or the buyer finds that it does not meet their expectations or needs.

Advertising has long been regarded by many as a cloaked and unreliable medium for learning the facts about a product or service. It is often basal. Just an attention-getter, at best simply a reminder of the existence of a product or service. The goal of advertising is to appeal to our emotions and emotional urges. Marketing products today needs to address and fulfill the needs of consideration. Understanding that, a company can still employ advertising to it’s benefit while not resorting to disregarding the truth.

The same has been the case to some degree in search marketing, although users are not nearly as jaded (yet) about search results as they are about the facade of advertising. There’s nothing sadder than web marketing that uses the same old school, low road advertising ploys to lead an audience to their item regardless of whether it’s what the audience is really needing. It’s not working. Really.

As an example, for a long time I have felt that SEO is a manipulative practice used to garner visits by “working the system” to get higher search rankings above competitors undeservedly. It should be about the relevancy of the content, and the truthfulness of that content compared to what the visitor is seeking. I am encouraged to see that although good SEO practices include making the most of the high caliber content your site contains, its manipulative practices of back-links and link purchasing are being negated by the search engines, particularly Google, rendering them ineffective. Read the article in Forbes.

If you believe SEO in it’s current form has it’s place and this editorial is off-base, I would argue along with Ken Krogue that taking advantage of genuine quality content within your own site is appropriate and necessary. Posting appropriate content to social and PR sites is relevant use of those channels. Blogs and social media then link to your site because your rich content is compelling. This is their prerogative and is an endorsement of the genuineness of your content. That isn’t the issue.  Rather, it is the external manipulation of content and links that I find to be objectionable and unethical.

I understand that in this tough economy a business has to do everything it can to grow sales. But if we do not maintain an ethical boundary in our practices, we find the foundation of our economy and society – trust – will erode to the detriment of everyone.

I also believe that audiences today are more discerning about how many marketing messages they receive every day. People increasingly see through the shallow manipulations of hyped or exaggerated copy. Responsible marketing. It means truthfully representing your product or service and it’s value, honestly attracting the appropriate members of your audience to it, and then delivering on the pledge. This is just as important aspect of being a responsible company, and will bring you another step closer to the ultimate goal of “sustainability”.

Foundation of Excellent Design

2012 July 20
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by Tom Watson

Excellent design is valuable. People simply respond favorably to it. When companies and individuals excel in design quality their chances of success are significantly higher, and their level of success can reach extreme heights. At the most basic level, excellent design combines beauty with functionality. Anything that is created for more than being experienced as art must be functional in order to be truly excellent. Add to that solid build quality and you have what has for many years been widely considered the foundation of excellent design.

Some Examples of Excellent Design

Apple is of course one of the most widely recognized manufacturers of high quality products. They combine beauty and functionality in both hardware and software with a reliable, solid build quality that results in products which last a long time and which people can enjoy throughout the product’s useful life.

Experience Music Project, Seattle, WA

Experience Music Project, Seattle, WA

C-Suite Quarterly magazine, a locally-produced online and print publication is an excellent example of high quality design in a periodical. Pleasing to view, and very readable with excellent choice and use of fonts. This is a young publication but if their quality of design and content is any indication I expect this publication will be very successful.

I can’t make a statement about excellent design without mentioning Frank Gehry‘s controversial architecture. Created more like sculpture than architecture, his buildings are artwork in which you participate when you visit. Experience Music Project in Seattle is an excellent example of a high-function space in a sculptured architectural package. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park in Chicago merges this sculptural approach in a park setting with a remarkable continuity of visitor experience. You might debate about the functional aspect of many of Gehry’s designs, but my personal experience with the ones I have visited is a an enjoyable merger of extraordinary structure design that is highly approachable, personal, and functional.

More is Required for True Excellence

Sustainabilty

A model for Sustainable development

However, I believe the definition of design excellence must change. There is one aspect of design excellence has been missing but is beginning to emerge, and I believe we need to capture it as a foundational element of excellent design: Sustainability. As industrial designers, graphic designers, architects, engineers and others move toward embracing materials, techniques and processes that are more sustainable and reduce impact on the Earth, they are adding that vital fourth leg of the foundation of design excellence.

The best news is that this is already happening. A few examples of companies doing this now include:

Patagonia, a company that has successfully combined sustainability with functionality, beauty, and build quality of clothing and gear for outdoor recreation.Sustainability has been a foundational part of this company since their beginning, 40 years ago.

New Belgium Brewing, the makers of Fat Tire Ale, have had sustainability as a basic tenet of their company from the beginning and produce a product widely accepted as excellent. (Fat Tire Ale in a post about  design? Absolutely. I consider something created for taste no less “designed” than a tablet computer, vest, or periodical).

Apple is increasingly modifying its products and practices to improve sustainabilty and is striving to be very transparent about it.

Let’s join these and many other companies in expanding the foundation of excellent design to include sustainability.

* All trademarks remain property of their respective holders, and are used only to directly describe the companies or products.  Their use in no way indicates any relationship between Thomas Watson Consulting and the holders of said trademarks.

What is Revenue Performance Management?

2012 June 22
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by Tom Watson

You may have begun seeing this new acronym being used in marketing blogs, articles and websites in the last year or so: “RPM”, or “revenue performance management”. Simply put, it is a way of maximizing your company’s revenue. Currently there are about as many variations of the definition as there are pundits.

In May, Marketo published their definition of RPM in an infographic. It states: “RPM is a strategy to optimize interactions with buyers across the revenue cycle and accelerate predictable revenue growth.” The infographic expounds on that further in fanciful but fairly accurate terms, illustrating the frustrations with the hard-to-quantify results of traditional marketing vs the highly quantifiable sales results. It rightly points out that when RPM principles are applied, marketing results become far more quantifiable, and bring better quality leads to sales. This not only reduces inter-departmental finger-pointing, but increases sales efficiency and sales results.This is a good description of RPM, but in my view skips over an important aspect: strategy and planning.

Their newest infographic provides a new spin on the definition of RPM: “…a revolutionary way of setting up your business to achieve maximum revenue. It involves your marketing and sales team calling a truce and coming together to create new processes with the same goal in mind: generating revenue.” Rather than providing a new definition, this statement expands on the first, focusing on the relationship of marketing and sales as a key factor in achieving the goal of successful RPM implementation: generating revenue.

The graphic goes on to point out that this is only the beginning. In implementing processes and techniques to generate revenue, companies can execute changes to varying levels. The best part about this graphic, is it uses the results of their recent benchmark survey of 411 companies. The survey was focused on learning “how top performers were maximizing revenue coming directly from their marketing initiatives. The survey examined revenue performance maturity and performance metrics for each company across three categories: growing number and quality of leads and opportunities, improving sales effectiveness, and optimizing sales and marketing ROI (return on investment).”

The graphic clearly illustrates the results companies experience as they implement the strategies, processes and technologies to varying degrees. The more complete their implementation, the closer they came to achieving their revenue generation goals. With complete RPM implementation companies exceeded their goals.

These graphics together go a long way to helping viewers understand not only the definition of RPM, but the benefits of implementation. The graphics make it clear that teamwork between Marketing and Sales is essential, process improvements are needed, measurements must be introduced, and special technology is required. It rightly points out in the initial definition of RPM that it is a strategy. Two of the most important aspects of achieving RPM goals, however, is only hinted at, but not directly addressed: The Buyer’s Journey, and Content. With a clear understanding of the changes in the Buyer’s Journey today vs. past buyer behavior, combined with robust and valuable content providing what that audience needs and helps them along their journey, you can be highly effective in the crucial inbound and outbound marketing activities that are designed to generate demand. Integrated with the right processes, this will generate more demand, higher quality leads, and bring you to optimum revenue generation results.

 

RPM Definition Infographic

2012 June 22
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by Tom Watson

RPM Definition infographic by Marketo

RPM Benchmark Survey Infographic

2012 June 22
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by Tom Watson

RPM Survey Infographic by Marketo

CMS confusion

2012 February 26
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by Tom Watson

I recently saw a post in LinkedIn about CMS asking what is the best system. It seems there is some confusion about what “CMS”, so I thought I’d post my thoughts on the subject in my blog. There are two CMS acronyms:

Contact Management System, also known as Customer Relationship Management (CRM). A Wikipedia entry says it very well: “a widely implemented strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects.”

Content Management System, according to another Wikipedia entry, is “a system providing a collection of procedures used to manage work flow in a collaborative environment.” This is a very broad definition because content management can take many forms depending upon the user’s need. For example, it can mean a document management tool; a file management tool; a tool for storing and making content components such as text, images, video, etc. available for specific uses; or a tool to control validity and compliance, and more. These systems span  scale from local to enterprise-wide, but the key is managed storage, access and collaborative use of content data.

When most people say “CMS”, however, mean a Web Content Management System, which is a very specific but widely used CMS. As defined by this Wikipedia entry, it is “software system that provides website authoring, collaboration, and administration tools designed to allow users with little knowledge of web programming languages or markup languages to create and manage website content with relative ease. ”

So with that in mind, which systems are better? I’ll only address CRM and Web CMS here:

If you are talking about CRM, I recommend two systems: SugarCRM or Salesforce.com. They are both powerful systems that help you manage your contacts in a relational context and nurture qualified contacts into closed sales. SugarCRM’s advantage lies in the fact it is an open source solution with users contributing to its features around the world, and you don’t get charged for every little thing you add along the way. Plus, there are many plugins available that increase the function and value of your application. If you want your leads to become more qualified before going over to sales, than you should develop a demand generation strategy, and implement that using a marketing automation solution coupled to your CRM. Then you can connect your marketing automation to your CRM, for best marketing-to-sales-to-close results. But you must define your strategy and develop your content first or you will waste your time and money.

If you are talking about a web CMS, then I recommend WordPress.org – the self-hosted version you install on your own server or hosting service. It has become a very powerful web site development tool with thousands of themes and plugins, and is easily customized – including that ability to create your own custom theme. Because it is blog-based, It makes raising your search rankings much easier by allowing you to easily and frequently post new content and adjust your SEO. Because it easily connects with other blogs in the blogosphere to the degree you allow, you can get links with other blogs and websites, which can significantly boost your rankings.

New Partnership with Radix Promotions and Marketing

2011 October 22
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by Tom Watson
Radix Promotions and Marketing

I love to work, I really do. And there’s never as much fun to be had in work as in creative, problem-solving endeavors that mix strategy, technology, and design. As a result, I am happy to announce that we have entered into a partnership with Radix Promotions and Marketing (RPM), a full-service branding and integrated marketing communications agency. We will be primarily providing marketing operations services including the technology and creative of marketing for both the clients and the agency.

The Agency’s core deliverables are brand/business strategy, creativity and innovation delivered across an integrated, multi-channel marketing communications mix – underscored by a focus on achieving the metrics that move our clients’ businesses.

Our expertise is on working with new, budding organizations that are committed to activation – that is, accelerating awareness, driving demand, creating heightened momentum, positioning (or re-positioning) to capitalize on opportunity or catapulting beyond perceptual/image issues, launching new products and programs – in general, to invigorate the brand and demand.

Specialties

RPM‘s specialties include: brand/business strategy, brand positioning, brand design, market research, online & print advertising, marketing, broadcast advertising, email marketing, SEO, events, new media, biz development, lead & generation, seminars, graphic/web design, marketing automation.

Best of All

One of the things I love about being involved in this company is the solutions we bring to small and medium-sized businesses. We delight in providing the same demand-generating automated services large companies enjoy, but at more affordable prices. Having been part of small start-ups and medium-sized business in addition to large corporations, I understand the challenges small business faces and am equipped with broad experience that I can apply to the problems – no matter how large or small. Excellent marketing with leading-edge technology that results in business-growing ROI can make your business even more successful. I am proud to be partnered with a company which provides that kind of service.