True productivity and guilt by association

There are many articles on the internet, or even websites, about productivity. The articles give advice on how to make the most of your time. Some give recommendations on software or tools one can use to be more productive. I was thinking today about true productivity. You can use all the tools and advice freely available on the internet, however, that does not mean you are truly being productive. No advice and tools in the world can help you reach your goals if you are making bad decisions.

Let’s look at an example…

Marvin wants to start a new gaming web site. He wants that web site to earn $50,000 within 18 months. He made a list of topics he wants to cover. He decided on a posting schedule. He read many productivity articles and decided to write articles in advance. He made sure to have the tools recommended to get things down quickly yet efficiently. He made a list of potential ad network and advertisers. He was able to do this from previous sites. Microsoft, who invests heavily in online marketing, was one of the companies he made considerable income from in the past. He made sure to make a note to keep up with contacts with Microsoft while networking for other prospective sponsors. Marvin carefully picked out the content management system he wanted to use, the design, and he made special care to pick hosting he can grow with without having to worry about his site being turned off during traffic spikes.

Marvin put his plan into action. He started writing articles. He started Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace accounts. His friends’ lists were growing. Soon, others linked to his articles and his traffic numbers increased. The productivity articles he read were spot on because he efficiently produced content and reached his goal.

When his traffic numbers were high enough, he began to approach Microsoft about sponsorships, game betas, etc. He also approached Sony, EA, and other console and PC game developers. The response was not what he hoped. Most of them didn’t respond at all. After exchanging emails back and forth with someone from Microsoft he finally found out why they would not advertise with him as they had done in the past. The contact at Microsoft said that he did not feel Microsoft would receive a decent return on their investment due to the community views of the site.

Marvin did not understand. His content was quality and unique. He did not understand what the Microsoft contact was talking about. Frustrated, he talked to his wife. She thought about it for a moment, and gently explained that Marvin connected himself closely with Apple lovers. The audience loved Apple and hated Microsoft. She pointed to Twitter updates and links by those he interacted with most on Twitter, Facebook etc. There are applications that make this very easy to see. What was clear was that the people he interacted most online were pro Apple and Microsoft haters. Marvin pointed out that his articles received decent comments and he protested because he is a happy PC user. His wife pointed out that he also has a Mac and it does not matter if he enjoys his PC. His friends are anti-Microsoft. They would be throwing money away advertising with him.

Guilty by association

If you are paying attention, you will realize that Marvin lost advertising revenue from Microsoft and PC game developers. His online connections limited him to console game companies only and realistically only console game developers that do not make PC games. His once attainable goal of $50,000 in 18 months is no longer attainable. By associating with people who were in direct conflict with what he needed to do to complete his goals, he stumped his own growth.

What the Microsoft contact noticed is that his tweets about his articles could not possibly be well received by his friends, limiting the share value. Why invest money in Marvin’s site when sites such as Team Xbox or GameSpot exist? When writers tweet their articles their friends are on board because they are of like minds. The friend value and the odds of ROI are much higher advertising elsewhere.

What would probably be a better match for Marvin is to review iPhone games. Would he be able to make $50,000 in 18 months? Most likely not but his audience would match his content. Something is out of whack. It is up to Marvin to figure out what it is.

You cannot escape it…

To have success you have to make the right decisions long-term. Perhaps Marvin selected those people to increase his traffic short-term but in the end, he ended up diluting his ability to earn money long-term. Unfortunately for Marvin, it will take months to undo his error. Advertisers aren’t stupid. Marvin will have to change the core people he interacts with and permanently keep it that way. Otherwise, he’ll lose advertisers again. Companies are very used to people jumping through hoops for money. This is not something he can undo easily. In the end, he was not productive in achieving his goals, was he?

Pick your friends, offline and online, wisely because they are a direct reflection of you.