Monday, March 31, 2008

PPC: When Position Matters

In PPC, you are typically looking for the lowest cost of conversion or CPL (cost per lead). Then you apply the sales conversion rate and voila!, you have optimized for cost of acquisition. Position only matter to the extent that you get the appropriate volume.

What if you have a premium product? What if it's an emotional purchase?

Then top position will matter.

We have a client that sells a consumer emergency service. It's an emotional purchase where the buyer can go one of 2 ways: buy right away with a "high quality" service or price compare to get the basic set of functionality.

The focus was on getting the appropriate lead volume at the right cost given the sales close rate. However, given that the price of the product was higher, the sales close rate was low. If the client's ad appeared as position 5 in a list of similar competitors, they would lose out as those purchasers are making decisions based on price.

So we ran an experiment. Take the most relevant keywords, bid high to gain top position and see what happened.

The result: Close rates went up 150%, CPLs went up over 30%, cost of acquisition fell by greater than 50%.

The upshot: Customers perceived high quality by high position. Though the cost of the client solution was 100% higher than the competition, they increased sales to the right target customer.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

More Apieron Articles

The articles on the breakthrough Apieron eNO product are starting to come out. One is on the front page of the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal. The other is the Medical Device Daily Newsletter.

First the Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal:

Better Insight on asthma

Apieron develops a simple-to-use monitor that helps individuals manage the disease

by Lisa Shelby

Dr. Bhairavi Parikh doesn't let her 10-year-old daughter Shivani go outside if it's cold without wrapping her head in scarves.

Shivani was diagnosed three years ago with asthma, and the cold weather can set off the chronic disease that causes inflammation and constriction of the airways and lungs. Parikh describes the feeling "like being a fish out of water." It's a disease that can result in shortness of breath, wheezing and, in extreme cases, death.

Asthma accounts for one-quarter of all emergency room visits in the United States annually, with two million emergency room visits in 2001, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Approximately 44 percent of all asthma hospitalizations are children.

Menlo Park-based Apieron Inc. -- a private, venture-backed company -- was formed in early 2001 to develop a simple-to-use monitor to help manage the disease. The device, called Insight eNO, measures exhaled nitric oxide (NO). NO is a marker for inflammation and offers a means of monitoring a patient's response to anti-inflammatory treatment. Asthmatics are treated primarily by inhaling a type of steroid hormone called corticosteroids to help fight infection and reduce inflammation, and the Insight eNO system assists physicians in determining the proper medication.

The rest of the article is available for paid subscribers. I will post the rest once Apieron gets access to the full article.

The second is the Medical Device Daily newsletter:

'A glucometer for asthmatics'

FDA clears Apieron's Insight to personalize asthma therapy

Medical Device Daily Staff Writer

The competition is heating up to corner the market on personalized care for 20 million asthmatics in the U.S. with new technology that allows physicians to test fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FENO), a measurement for assessing asthma-related airway inflammation.

Earlier this month, Aerocrine (New Providence, New Jersey) received FDA 510(k) clearance of Niox Mino, a hand-held point-of-care device for the measurement of airway inflammation (Medical Device Daily, March 7, 2008). Now, Apieron (Menlo Park, California) reports its Insight eNO system also was cleared for marketing. Both devices are intended to be used in a physician's office and provide instant readouts of a patient's inflammatory process and predict response to therapy.

"Inflammation is currently treated by inhaled corticosteroids," Rich Lotti, Apieron president/CEO, told Medical Device Daily. "Our Insight eNO is designed to measure the amount of exhaled nitric oxide in the breath. It's the primary biomarker for inflammation of the lungs. Physicians prescribing corticosteroids will want our device to help them decide to increase or decrease dosages."

The Insight eNO includes a small desktop monitor with a display, trend analysis capabilities and a user-friendly interface. The system uses disposable, single-use sensors to measure nitric oxide accurately and non-invasively.

Since this is a subscriber-only journal, I will post the article when it is available on Apieron's website.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


My 12 year old son has just set up his own blog, Fanenomics. He comments on his assessments of major league players and sports. Arjun is the kind of kid who considers Bill James and Billy Beane cool. In ProTrade, a sports trading site, he's making huge profits. He actually prefer general manager mode in all sports video games and is running a number of sports sim league - scary, I know. Arjun's a real fan, combining opinion with data. So, if you are a sports stat junkie, check out Fanenomics.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Guild Wins YouTube Best Video Series Award

YouTube announced that The Guild won for YouTube Best Video 2007 Series Award! They also won the Yahoo 2007 Best Web Series Award! Our very own Effinfunny creator, Sandeep Parikh, co-stars with Guild creator Felicia Day. Sandeep plays the hyper-compulsive lovestruck Zaboo in the "real life" multi-player series game obsessed Codex (Felicia).

Even for non-gamers, the series becomes addictive. I love how Sandeep improvs a lot of his lines. Please see my favorite episide at, "Cheesybeards."

Check out all the news on this amazing series.

Congrats to Felicia and The Guild writers, cast and crew!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Social Media Presentation at Web 2.0 Conference

I recently spoke on a Social Media panel at the Web 2.0 Conference. During this session we discussed how Social Media and Advertising techniques can be used to gain visibility and increase traffic.

I discussed case studies of how social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and others can be used to increase traffic for 2 B2C firms: Effinfunny and ResponseLINK. As an online comedy video site, Effinfunny could directly target interested groups with engaging videos. They monetize via advertising, so what matters to them is traffic and time on site. For ResponseLINK, they monetize using a monthly subscription service for their medical alarm systems for home-based seniors.

was able to see a 200% increase in traffic over a 2 month period last year. That increase has been durable and growing since them. In their case, they use tools like TubeMogul to periodically place videos at a number of video sharing sites. They also have a group in Facebook and MySpace. Efforts like these are optimized to focus on time on site, bounceback rates and registrations. In their case, it's important to get in front of the passionate audience of stand-up comedy fanatics. A side benefit of this has been excellent search rank in Google for the keywords that matter.

ResponseLINK saw a 200% increase in non-PPC traffic by engaging with discussion sites, forums, and yes, even social media sites. People are very passionate about taking care of their parents. Because ResponseLINK offers a high quality approach, they need to engage with their audience to alert them on the things they should care about when using these types of products. This includes a self-monitoring system (for uptime), medication reminders, and when something happens, a well-trained agent who will stay on the line with the senior until help arrives. There's a great set of ResponseLINK videos that discuss why adult children bought the system as an aid for their previously strong and independent parents. This video actually ranks higher than others that employ a fear based approach.

Thanks to Daya from WebGuild for inviting us to speak. Barbara Coll of WebMama did an excellent job of moderating with Cam Blazer and Kent Lindstrom and myself as panelist. She has a nice writeup on her blog about the session.

If you want a copy of my presentation - please let me know.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

AAAAI Apieron Booth Picture

Here's a picture taken by Bryan Flaherty, Apieron VP of R&D on Sunday morning (3/16/2008). You can see some of our top players, Sal (sales) and Vivek (Marketing, previously Engineering). Of course, there's the Apieron Insight and the main heading: Now FDA Cleared!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Breakthrough Asthma Management Device

Apieron, Inc. Announces FDA Clearance of the Insight™ eNO System to Assist Physicians with Patient Asthma Management

Physician’s office system for measuring airway inflammation poised to transform asthma management for improved control.

MENLO PARK, CA, MARCH 17, 2008, Apieron, Inc. Apieron, Inc. ( announced today that the Insight eNO system has received clearance to market by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Insight eNO system measures exhaled nitric oxide (eNO) which is a well established indicator of airway inflammation and asthma control. The Insight system is a highly accurate device, expressly designed for the physician’s office. It is non-invasive, safe, easy to use, and provides results in less than a minute. Apieron’s unique biosensor detects trace amounts of nitric oxide molecules in a single human breath utilizing a proprietary technology. Current methods and techniques used to diagnose, monitor and treat asthma are costly, time-consuming and cumbersome. Physician office measurement of eNO is a much awaited breakthrough in medical technology that provides physicians with a reliable tool to measure their patient’s respiratory inflammation better than ever before. Measurement of eNO has also been shown to optimize medication therapy and improve compliance among patients with asthma.

William Berger, MD, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of California, Irvine, and Mission Viejo Medical Center, Mission Viejo, California, stated, “In clinical studies with the Apieron Insight eNO monitor, I found the ability to easily and accurately measure eNO in the physician’s office to be a major advancement in my care for patients with persistent asthma.”

It is estimated that more than 20 million people in the U.S. suffer from asthma, making it one of the most common and costly of all diseases. In fact, every day in America 40,000 people miss school or work due to asthma and 5,000 people go to the emergency room due to an asthma attack. One-quarter of all emergency room visits are asthma related and asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease.

“We are pleased to offer physicians and their patients a reliable, accurate and affordable asthma measurement and management device,” said Rich Lotti, President and CEO of Apieron, Inc., “We believe this product will improve the standard of care for patients with asthma enabling physicians to optimize medical therapy for each patient.

"The availability of simple to use, accurate, and economically feasible eNO measurement devices now enables physicians to intelligently assess and manage the key pathologic feature of asthma, airway inflammation", said Peter B. Boggs, M.D., Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, LSU School of Medicine, Shreveport, Louisiana. "Prior to the availability to measure eNO, assessing and managing airway inflammation was, for all practical purposes, little more than a guess! The ability to measure eNO in the physician's office is "one giant step" in the care of adults and children with asthma."

The Insight eNO system includes a small desktop monitor with an easy-to-read display, trend analysis capabilities and a user-friendly interface. The system uses disposable, single-use sensors to measure nitric oxide accurately and non-invasively in less than a minute. Disposable, single-use breath tubes make it hygienic and convenient for the user to exhale into the device. Patient data can be stored and maintained in unique patient cards for trend analysis or downloaded to a printer for insurers’ and patients’ files.

About Apieron Inc.
Apieron Inc. is a private, venture-backed medical device company based in Menlo Park, CA that was formed in early 2001 to develop a simple-to-use, non-invasive monitor for the measurement of exhaled nitric oxide (eNO) for the management of asthma. The Apieron biosensor technology platform utilizes a patented platform technology that allows for the highly sensitive detection of selected analytes like eNO. Apieron is committed to collaborating with physicians and patients to develop innovative medical solutions to improve quality of life and standards of care.

Refer Questions to:
Holly McGarraugh Apieron, Inc.
650-454-8101 (ph)
650-454-8190 (fax)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Apieron Receives FDA Approval

Today Apieron received notification of FDA approval for the new Apieron Insight eNO System. This was the result of a long journey for Bhairavi and myself. We were absolutely thrilled to hear the official word the day before AAAI in Philadephia. That means we can take orders for this product. We first started this quest in 2001 and are thrilled to get to this point. Finally, physicians can truly understand and manage asthma for the millions of people in the US and around the world that suffer from this disease.

We thank all those at Apieron who worked so hard to develop and commercialize the technology. You believed in us and put your heart into your work, spending countless hours in every phase of process: R&D, product & process development, clinical, regulatory, marketing, legal, reimbursement, finance, and manufacturing. So many partners worked with us on every phase - some for little more than the promise of a great dream. Our initial and current investors helped not only with money, but with time, commitment and expertise. We appreciate all your help and are excited about getting this in the hands of allergists, pulmonologists, pediatrians, GPs, nurses and technicians can make a huge difference for the 20 million asthma sufferers in the US.

Imagine the opportunity to create a brand new market with a revolutionary product. The Apieron Insight is the first step in turning the art of asthma management into a science.

So many people supported us that it will take 3 days of calls to thank everyone. This an amazing point because it removes the one risk that we could not control.

Now it's execution time - hit the the pedal to the metal!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Interesting Recession Chart

The stock market keeps dropping. This is a leading, though in this case belated sign of recession. This has been coming for some time as commodity prices and demand became overheated. Keeping interest rates so low for so long created a tremendous housing bubble that is affecting many. Overseas, globalization has resulted in rising wages, especially for skilled labor.

Check out this graph published in NYT's Freakonomics blog:

The graph indicates growth or decline in non-farm payroll. Down is bad, up is generally good. The gray bars are recession periods as defined by the National Bureau of Economic Research. I'm hoping that this does not last long, but we are crossing 0.1%.

What to do if you are in search marketing? As stated in a previous blog, I believe that those who are in the game will spend more here, because the results can be tracked at every stage. Most businesses need to invest in new customer acquisition, regardless of the economy. We have the people, process and technology to get them there.

Luckily for us, we have clients that help those in heavy debt like or those concerned about foreclosure like Home Assure. We are also expanding in Southeast Asia, an area that is absolutely booming, and Europe, where the euro and pound are super strong. We also have some really cool ideas under wraps for tools and business concepts.

Security Gone Silly

Here's an interesting one. Yesterday, I went to check out Effinfunny and could not view some of the videos. After checking with a friend, it turned out that he (Sam) could run them just fine. However, Sam was outside my office. He said to check and then MySpace. I got this error:

This site is blocked by the SonicWall Content Filter Service.


Reason for restriction: Forbidden Category "Adult/Mature Content"

Turns out that the guys at SonicWALL way overdid their firewall software. It's one thing if I was checking some bondage site - "research" in the Internet Marketing business - but c'mon. This is way over the top.

It's one thing to get searched three times while walking between terminals at Frankfurt or Heathrow and having to discombobulate yourself for all sorts of random fears. But this restricts hurts legimate businesses. Someone creates a site about Internet Marketing, posts videos in Revver and uses them as they video player, but finds out that many of his target audience can't see the video. Now people can always complain to IT, they aren't necessarily going to call their network admins and tell them to enable MySpace traffic.

So we've sent this to the SonicWALL folks. Hope they fix this. Hope other firms don't go security-silly.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Marketing During a Recession

John Quelch, Marketing Professor at Harvard Business School discussed how to market during a recession in his HBS Working Knowledge blog. He generally takes the point of view that this is a time to strengthen your advantage rather than cut back as it pays tremendous dividends in market share, customer and employee loyalty when the market turns around.

Amongst his points, the following reasonated with me:

Research your customer: since customers will be redefining their value equation, you need to learn more about which features are considered must-haves and the price elasticity curve.

Maintain marketing spending: this is a time where an advertiser can greater value for their marketing dollar. Customers are looking for reassurance during this time and the company that markets will appear even more solid before. In industries where brand value is high, this is a time to increase durable market share. If marketing spend must be cut, substitute less expensive forms of marketing - radio vs. TV, direct marketing over pure branding.

Adjust pricing tactics: rather than cutting list prices which create a new threshold that is difficult to raise during an upturn have more temporary price promotions, reduce thresholds for quantity discounts, extend credit to long-standing customers, and price smaller pack sizes more aggressively.

Emphasize core values: rather than cutting back on employees or services, this is a time to focus more energy on existing customers and retaining the best employees. This buys incredible loyalty for when the economy turns around.

Quelch also discussed finding ways to add the distribution channel, adjusting product portfolios and focusing on market shares. Most of these are strategies when you have a strong cash balances and favorable profit margins. It would be interesting to hear what he would cut if it was necessary, but I suspect it has a lot of do with researching the products value proposition and adjusting accordingly.