Archive for

Global Market Relationships – Don’t Forget the News

As I have been saying, 2010 will be an interesting year in the markets, and this week only supports my contention. Many bearish voices are suggesting a correction is coming, but we have been hearing this since March of last year. Nonetheless, something bearish is afoot, as the world wrestles with the continuing ramifications related to recovering from the worst economic collapse since the 1930s. Here is where we are this week.

The risk aversion following the 2-day slide in the markets has supported safe haven currencies such as the dollar and the yen, sending commodities lower. Amid this backdrop and in the absence of any key economic report, the major averages may fight to hold key support levels. - World Daily Markets Bulletin

The factors contributing to this bearish influence are global in scope, and they offer insight into just how interrelated all the global markets have become, and, as we will see at the end of this article, how one less-discussed factor just might be a prime mover in the market of today.

China, the driver of today’s economic recovery, is so “hot” it is tapping the brakes on its rapidly growing GDP, which hit 10.7% in Q4. China announced it would begin reducing liquidity in its markets. The announcement of this “normalization” process immediately and negatively impacted the global equity and commodity markets, but positively affected the U.S. dollar and Japanese yen. One might argue that this relationship is typical, and so it is, but now factor into that the possibility that China has a larger problem with its developing housing bubble. Housing prices have jumped some 70% in the last two years. Put that together with an over-stimulated economy, a government that is putting on the monetary brakes, and you now have one huge market (China as a whole) acting as a drag on the global economy.

Fine, China is China, and we know that its debt-free and rapidly growing economy is influencing the global markets, but what about our markets right here in the U.S.? We have mixed economic data indicating our recovery is happening, but it is not quite solid in its footing. Q4 corporate earnings for the most part have been strong, but some would argue that is true only because of major cost-cutting and tighter inventories. The fact that unemployment is stubbornly hanging around 10%, and credit is still not leaching down to small business and the average consumer leads one to think that it might be some time before the U.S. begins a more accelerated recovery, which means that our deficit and debt will continue to grow. This reality turns us back to China. Since China has been buying up much of our debt, the economic thinkers there must be calculating that if America is too slow in its economic recovery and China is too rapid, the imbalance will hurt China more than it hurts the U.S. After all, we are the number one importer of Chinese goods and they hold almost one-trillion dollars of our debt, so to protect the balance of trade and to protect their investment in our Treasury bonds, not to mention Chinese corporate investment in our country, the Chinese government must “tap the brakes” and wait for us to catch up. They really have no choice.

The broad inter-market relationship between Chinese economic policy and our own economic recovery is clear, but what about economic policy right here in the U.S.? How does that fit into the relationship outlined above, and what impact is that likely to have on the U.S. equity markets?

Clearly, the rest of the world is watching how we handle our economic recovery, and now they are watching our response to the factors that brought us all to the place we are today. Re-regulating the financial industry in this country is a complicated, politically charged, and potentially disruptive process. Will the new regulations be enough or too little? With the lobbyists get more for this sector than that sector? Will those segments of the American public looking for a scapegoat draw the blood they seek? In the short term, will the reformation talk allow bears to swallow us all? In the long term, will the new regulations actually do anything to curb the excesses of those who profit from excessive speculation and actually help prevent another meltdown? The lack of answers to these questions at this juncture all contribute to an already jittery market, a market that flourishes on stability and flounders on uncertainty. Thus, part of the bearish revival this week is directly attributable to government discussion of financial reform.

All of this is interesting, but one might ask, so what? None of what has been discussed today is unknown, or particularly enlightening for that matter. In this, the Information Age, it is difficult to produce information and conclusions someone somewhere has not already analyzed or discussed, which brings me to the most interesting part of this week, this year, and the foreseeable future, as it relates to markets, and the influence of markets on one another.

Relatively speaking, the discussion about the importance of the media in terms of its impact on governments, corporate policy, and the markets is minimal. Although it is not quantifiable, an inductive conclusion is that the impact is huge. The ubiquitous and pervasive 24-hour news cycle has become a fight for ratings, as well as an agenda-driven enterprise. The fight for ratings produces much, much more bad news than good and the agenda-driven nature of analysts and pundits on the news clearly has an impact on which direction the markets move. As traders and investors, we understand that news drives markets, but do we truly understand the influence of the constant pounding of one notion, the impact of “reporting” one news items over and over again? You see, the problem is not the news; that is a necessary and important part of the market. No, the problem is the excessive and repetitive “chatter” that goes on sometimes for weeks at a time. The more a story is told, the truer it becomes, much like a self-fulfilling prophecy. How does one factor this into the reality of market behavior? What is truly interesting to think about is how does one quantifiably factor that influence into his or her trading/investment decision-making process? Since the market represents our mass trading/investment consciousness, the answer might be that as individuals, we just might not have any choice but to go with the flow. This cynical perspective might not be true now, but as time goes on, and the news media continues to consolidate and continues to “drive” the news as opposed to just reporting the news, one has to wonder. Yes, this has been an interesting week and 2010 promises to be an interesting year as we start the second decade of this new century. My, how time flies when you’re having fun!

Best Wishes,

Lou Mendelsohn

6 Ways To Be Your Own Legal Marketing Coach

While it’s always beneficial to have an outside opinion, not everyone has the budget or inclination to hire a CMO or marketing coach. And let’s be honest-even the most expensive coach can’t force attorneys to put their ideas into practice. By pulling from a coach’s overall strategy and adapting the ideas to your own daily marketing initiatives, you can propel yourself forward…on your own. Here are my best tips for being your own marketing and business development coach.

1. Be accountable to SOMEONE.
One of the greatest benefits of a coach is that you are always accountable to them. Identify someone (Spouse? Partner? Paralegal? Assistant? Colleague?) to keep you on track and ask them to check in and remind you to work on marketing and business development. If you’re not comfortable asking for help, set time in your (Outlook?) calendar and send yourself reminders. Even better? Enlist a partner in your marketing and business development journey and keep each other honest on what you’ve been doing to further the cause.

2. Get organized.
I present all my clients with a marketing binder at our second meeting. It contains a first draft of their marketing plan, articles that I think will help them with their efforts, and worksheets to keep track of their successes and challenges. While your binder doesn’t have to be as elaborate, it’s smart to have one place to collect all your ideas and plans. Print out relevant blog posts and articles, keep contact info for potential collaborators, list ideas for speeches or seminars and keep a list of referral sources.

3. Have a plan.
Though it may not be a formal marketing plan, you should, at the very least, sit down and brainstorm your marketing and business development goals. Then formulate a specific course of action (ie. Write one article a week; start a blog; set up 3 speaking engagements…) for reaching those goals. Keep in mind that the goals don’t have to be finance-related. Connecting with 5 old clients can be a fantastic goal if most of your business comes from referrals, while writing a book (or e-book) can help you build credibility within your practice area.

4. Send yourself inspiration.
I’m always passing on information to my clients that I think is relevant to their marketing goals. You can do the same. Sign up for tips and emails on marketing blogs (they don’t have to be law-related) and funnel them into a specific folder for you to peruse when you have the time to concentrate. Set aside an hour on the weekends, at night or early in the morning once or twice a week to clean out the folder and keep the tips or advice that you think you can apply.

5. Remove yourself.
I know it’s easier said than done, but try to be somewhat objective when evaluating your progress and initiatives. Step back and look in from outside. Read your articles or blog posts, look at your marketing materials and view presentations from the point of view of clients, potential clients, colleagues and referral sources. By putting yourself in their shoes you’ll speak more directly and create more powerful materials.

6. Make marketing a priority.
Marketing coaches help clients by steering their focus towards business development. Do the same for yourself. Just as I mentioned above, set aside time (as you would if you had a formal coach) to strategize and work on your plan of action. The only way to achieve results is to be dedicated and committed to the process.

No one can make you a successful marketer-except you. By adapting some of the strategies of marketing professionals, it becomes simply a matter of time and focus to help you reach your goals. Stay on track, stick to the plan and constantly refresh your thinking and research with new ideas and advice. As hard as it may sound you CAN be your own coach!

Why Candy Crush Saga Is a Social Media Marketing Genius

The delicious candy play is just too tempting to resist when our brains need a little break from our daily marketing routine. But upon closer look, we realized that good marketing – and good social media marketing, at that – is really everywhere a successful business is. Candy Crush and its developer, King, by extension are no different. If anything a closer examination as to just why people of all ages, nationalities and tech levels are just so completely consumed by this easy game that – let’s be honest – looks like another version of the classic Bejeweled reveals this simple fact: Candy Crush saga is a true social media marketing genius. And here’s why:

Why We’re Still Playing
There are a few reasons first to consider why it is that we are still playing this game so arduously almost a year after it launched in November 2012 when so many other games reach their peak well before that time. Thinkgaming data estimates that there are a cool 8.8 million active users playing Candy Crush everyday bringing in more than an estimate $858,000 in revenue – daily! That is a a lot of money for an app that you can download for free. And what’s more? An estimated 77,776 players are installing the game daily. Let’s consider five important reasons why Candy Crush is still the number one grossing app.

  1. In-App Purchases: Candy Crush Saga is considered a “freemium” app because although free to download a player can easily spend small amounts of money quickly to buy boosters or lives to advance through the game. Players are estimated to spend an average of $2.84 a day on in-app purchases!
  2. Simple Gameplay: Candy Crush, loosely put, is a spawn off the classic Bejeweled. The object of the game is simple enough that anyone can get started and start playing. There aren’t tons of rules or features to learn, meaning gameplay is also fast and continuous.
  3. Forced Breaks: One of the genius rules that the developers did incorporate into Candy Crush is that once you’re out of lives, you have to wait for your lives to reload – meaning you have to wait to play. Unlike other hugely popular games with all aforementioned features like Temple Run, for example, players can quickly burn out and get bored after playing for hours. Making players wait means they come back excited and anxious for more.
  4. Endless Milestones: With almost every new update, King has added hundreds of new levels to Candy Crush so that now there are 500 levels to play, meaning there is always the satisfaction of making it to the next milestone. Again, games like Temple Run have players only beating their own scores – which can get boring and repetitive. Another insanely popular game most will remember, Angry Birds, made players pay for levels after a certain level. Candy Crush offers a happy solution to both game fads.
  5. Multi-Platform Functionality: Nowadays people want to take everything with them without limitations. Candy Crush allows you to pick up your progress whether you’re playing on your phone, computer or tablet – and it’s available for iOS and Android users. No restrictions here!

The Social Media Marketing Element
Now here is the kicker that really seems to bring the success of Candy Crush home: the strategic use of social media in its gameplay. It is this one insanely important tool that King integrated all over the place that seems to really have driven up the numbers for downloads, active users and even revenue – and kept them rising for the last year. Let’s take a look.

  1. Facebook Integration: We all love convenience, and King knew that – which is why they allow you to start playing by signing in through Facebook. And once you do, you can see all your friends who are also playing and where they are on the levels map. What’s more is that you can check out their scores, so the fun of beating levels becomes more exciting when you start beating your friends.
  2. Lifesaving Friends: When you’ve burned out all your lives playing that one level you just can’t beat, you can either spend the money buying those lives and boosters (and some people obviously do by the those numbers), wait it out for 30 minutes, or you can have your friends give you an extra life. This requires active involvement from your friends. But if you’re depending on them, they’re also depending on you and now you’ve got a well-integrated cycle of dependency that’s all tied in by the use of social media.
  3. Friends in High Places: Probably the smartest feature of all is the fact that at certain points of the game, to reach a new episode, you have to request “tickets” from at least 3 of your Facebook friends to move forward. The dependence on your friends through Facebook keeps social media at the heart of Candy Crush’s success.
  4. Active Social Media Community: Some of the levels in Candy Crush are hard – and King knows that. The addictive play can get a little frustrating when you’ve been on the same level for months, but luckily there’s a community of more than 51.3 million people just on candy crush’s Facebook page that are giving each other tips and helping fellow players through the hard times. Disguising clever social media marketing as a forum? Absolutely genius.

Tell us, do you play Candy Crush Saga during your free time? Are you impressed by how clever King was to use social media to skyrocket their success?