“To promote a business, one must not stop”

Each subject area has its own experts. Professionals who understand it better than others, whose authority is not in doubt, and the opinions expressed are quoted and discussed by the entire interested community. Igor Ashmanov is a prominent figure in Runet, a recognized expert in the field of search engine optimization. At a lecture for students of the specialization “Management in the field of Internet technologies”, he spoke about the difficulties that arise when starting a business from scratch, as well as the current state of the optimization market, its development prospects, and his vision of the Internet marketing and search engines market.

Mr. Ashmanov began the lecture with a description of the general issues of creating and promoting commercial projects, referring to the example of the company "Ashmanov and partners . "

“Start to develop your project - go through all the mandatory stages of development,” he promised. “There will certainly be a series of problems and failures that you will have to face. Any novice driver immediately breaks a wheel, discharges the battery, fools the alarm, slams doors with a key inside, even if he bought a completely new reliable car. Not to mention the standard chain of minor accidents and adventures with the traffic police. With business - the same thing.

The basic principle that you need to know when starting your own business is the flywheel principle described in Jim Collins' excellent book, From Good to Great. A business is a flywheel of a very large mass that you need to untwist. For this you need to push, push and push for many years, in no case stopping. Then the flywheel will accumulate great kinetic energy, and already you will begin to receive dividends from it, connect all sorts of dynamos, mills and so on to it. Even if you simply stand idle in the market for 10 years without breaking up, without spoiling your reputation, you will become well-known to everyone and grow very much.

Say, in 1999-2001, I worked in Rambler, investors started the flywheel, launched in 1996 by the creator of Rambler Dima Kryukov, every six months to remove from the axis, shove the other way, and so on. And then this tradition continued. As a result, by 2008, he did not nearly pick up the move that he could. And Yandex pushed its flywheel, without interruption for a day, and in only one direction. Here he is the leader.

In general, normal business is growing exponentially, at 50-100 percent per year. Naturally, one of the problems is growth itself. If you grow by 100 percent per year, then your problems will increase accordingly and will double in a year, in five years - 30 times, in 10 - in 1000. More people, more tasks, more layers of management, more money, more attention from the tax authorities, more struggle with competitors, and so on. Problems will only multiply and increase. But the flywheel of the project cannot be stopped.

In 2001, I left Rambler and launched my flywheel, Ashmanov & Partners, from scratch. My partners and I are spinning this flywheel so far and see the same exhibitor - an increase of 100 percent per year. I initially registered the company on myself, as well as the domain. To the people who worked with me in Rambler, I said: “Guys, I am starting my company. If someone comes over to me and lasts one year in the saddle, I will take him a share. " The four core employees held out, and I gave them a stake in the company.

The company bears my name - this is also the right marketing move. Almost all successful consulting and law firms are named after their owners. This gives the business a personal character and arouses more trust. In addition, there is a double promotion effect - everything that you do raises your company, everything that your company does raises you. It turns out a kind of ladder to success.

A “name company” automatically makes you a brand. This is a purely mechanical process. When we just started the business and instead of the office we used the one-room apartment I got from my grandmother, I often answered calls myself. And the caller sometimes fainted almost when he found out what “Ashmanov himself” was saying to him. Fortunately, I do not have megalomania, I understand that it just works that way, and not I am so great.

If you need to sell consulting, services, professional services - call the company by your name. Unlike insignificant technical roots and long names - surnames are always remembered.

Now we have about 120 employees, 40 of whom are directly in the office. Among them, 5 account managers, 3-4 people are engaged in sales. We began to engage in our own advertising recently. We did not even promote our site. Customers were self-propelled - by virtue of our expert positioning and word of mouth recommendations. I repeat that at the same time I consider myself an unimportant businessman, rather an entrepreneur. But you have to push the flywheel, you can’t get anywhere from this. ”

Компания "Ashmanov and partners . " ейчас — один из признанных экспертов в области поискового маркетинга. Mr. Ashmanov explained how this was achieved.

“Personally, I am not a businessman, I do not have a commercial vein. There is no commercial estimate, as well as the ability to gently pull the blanket over yourself, remaining within the bounds of decency. In general, initially our entire company was assembled from developers, programmers. When it was created, the whole upper and middle management of Rambler passed to us. Why Rambler fired them - I still do not understand. These were all essentially developers. That is, we did not have people with pronounced commercial talents. We did not feel the craving for classic marketing and advertising. And they decided to act as we would like. As a result, we took up a kind of “scientific marketing”. We decided to become the main experts in the market and began to act in this direction.

We wrote the first glossary on promotion and optimization, made the first reports on website optimization and promotion in Russia, and held the first conference on search engine optimization. There were a lot of people at once, about 300 people. We took, it seems, 8,000 rubles from them. We didn’t earn money at this event (worked in a slight minus), but declared ourselves as the number one expert on the market. Now the conference was held for the seventh time, it was attended by 800 people, participation cost 25,000 rubles and 1,500 visitors were at a free exhibition. All our main competitors speak at it, they have stands there, etc.

We began to intensively create content - we wrote articles, made reports, started publishing a newsletter (now there are 90,000 subscribers) and further strengthened our position as experts. We began to conduct training seminars.

There are many opportunities to promote yourself as a chief expert. For example, we wrote a book on optimization, which took a rather high place in the ratings. We wrote this book together with 12 professional optimizers. When we collected all the material, I read it and was horrified - the authors were excellent specialists, but, as Andrei Platonov wrote, “they have power in words, they just put them wrong.” I had to spend two months and rewrite all the chapters, and part of the return to the authors for rework and then rewrite. The book has become a business bestseller, and this is another noticeable sign for everyone that we are the main experts in the market.

We started publishing the magazine “Internet Marketing Practice”, where we publish all competitors. We created the Optimizers Club to rebuild from the optimistic bully small things, and so on.

In addition, we began to develop technology. We have developed the Spamtest anti-spam filter (which we later sold to Kaspersky Labs). In support of Spamtest, we also wrote many articles, created a weekly newsletter, and organized an annual anti-spam conference.

Here is a good example of what the position of the chief expert is. At the first anti-spam conference, among many reports was a report from our main competitor. However, with the transmission of the text of the report, the technical director of the competitor dragged on for a month and a half, until I asked him about the reason for the delay directly. In response, he said that the report was ready, but I certainly would not like it, and they did not know what to do with it. I asked to give me the text anyway. There, as I expected, there was a run over to our company. In one of the chapters, they severely criticized the main technology that was used in the Spamtest. What should be the correct reaction of the conference organizer? That's right - include the report as is in the collection. Because this is the best demonstration of the strength of your position as the main expert in the market. We let everyone speak because we are above the market. This is what distinguishes "scientific marketing" - they criticize us, and we only become stronger from this.

Well, of course, there is a secret - you really need to be an expert, otherwise all these methods will not help. ”

Mr. Ashmanov spoke quite figuratively about the functions of experts in relation to those who need their help.

“Imagine that you are invited to a wedding where 100 people have already gathered. Even if you know the groom, the bride, one of the guests, in the first hour or two you have the effect of myopia - you cannot distinguish individual faces in the crowd, everything will merge. Later, after presentations, toasts, conversations and exits into the smoking room, separate sharpness spots form. The same situation is observed in any subject area new to you.

In general, a person understands a certain subject area if he distinguishes small details in it. Let's say a designer distinguishes many shades of colors, a PR person knows specific people in the media, and so on. That is, the question of owning an object is a question of sharpness, the resolving power of your vision of this object.

And when a newcomer comes to the Internet, everything is muddy and blurry for him - banners, media, optimization, context, blogs. He does not know the differences, conditions and methods of use, does not understand the basic terms and concepts, does not know the players, the risks.

The expert’s primary concern is sharpening. We do this for our customers, and they are very grateful to us for this. They always remember the one who explained to them who helped to sharpen. Everything that we do, for example, our book, is not aimed at experts, not at the optimizer community, but at those who have not yet figured out the subject area.

The same story with PR and media promotion. Journalists are generally always in a desperate situation - every day they need to write about a new subject area for them or a new segment in an already known area. That is, they constantly experience this effect of myopia. Market players do not explain anything to them, but try to impose their point of view, promote themselves, in general, try to manipulate instead of sharpening. I personally try to answer the journalists' questions so that the questioner understands (at least for half an hour, while he remembers and writes) the essence of the problem. Often I say with a remark “not for print” to simply explain the state of affairs in this area. And journalists start calling very often, because they have few such experts, and they value them.

This is how expert positioning works - you are not trying to promote yourself, to promote, but simply explain what you know. And the journalist does not have to break through the PR to the essence of the issue. As a result, each journalist gains for himself a set of experts with whom he values ​​and whom he refers to as anchors in the subject area.

One of the important components of optimizers' activity is reports. Many optimizers say: “Here Ashmanites write terabyte reports, this is all window dressing. You just need to successfully promote the site, and the client just needs to know their position in the issuance. " But the client also wants to see how and why it all works. The client wants to understand the reasons for the promotion, to have confidence that everything is done correctly, that the positions are stable, etc. Often our client is the director of Internet marketing, web master, head of the Internet department. He needs to protect the costs of Internet marketing before his bosses, he needs to prove that there are results. And how to do it if there is no material?

Why have a shortsighted counterparty in the subject who communicates with his same shortsighted boss? In the end, they get tired of it and they are bought billboards for all the money. Therefore, we explain, therefore, write large detailed reports.

Most optimizers believe that there is no need to explain anything, that they cut their own business with this, because the client will learn to do everything himself. I think it’s impossible to be afraid to explain in such a business where you are an expert. In no case should you be greedy for knowledge.

Well and generally to teach the client correctly and is useful. For example, once my classmate came to me, who was a very uncomfortable client - not only didn’t like anything, he also called me personally, through the manager’s head, constantly and on all issues. As a result, we trained his own optimizer, and now let him go to conferences and seminars. He doesn’t pay us, but he sends us new customers. ”

Mr. Ashmanov also spoke about his vision of the optimization market.

“At the RIF-2007 conference, I made a report at which I said that optimization is largely a gypsy business. It is built on a shaky foundation. There is always one unknown - a search engine. And if the company does not have a powerful analytical department, there is no working capital for insurance of technological risks, it will be difficult to stay afloat after changing the search algorithm. I made a prediction that search engines will finally engage in the fight against the most outrageous optimizers, and those will begin to have problems. After that, there was a big uproar in the optimizer environment - on the Searchengines.ru forum and on blogs, that I was frightened in vain that everything would be fine, that they had surpassed Yandex a long time ago and explained that it would not go anywhere.

But lately Yandex has changed several search algorithms and the situation for small optimizers has worsened. Since the spring of 2008, many of them went bankrupt - they simply did not have enough analytical resources and working capital. Further, the process will continue - small ones will go bankrupt, large ones will strengthen their positions in the market.

The trend towards integrated marketing is also continuing, consisting in the fact that all the large optimization companies will sooner or later turn to Internet marketing on the Internet in general, including contextual and display advertising. ”

Of course, the optimizer cannot but be interested in the situation with search engines. Igor Ashmanov also touched on this topic.

“Our Kazan employee Andrei Ivanov came up with a search engine analyzer that allows you to evaluate how well search engines look for different types of queries. We released its first version in the summer of 2007 and are constantly developing it. Using this analyzer, we saw that a year and a half ago Yandex was worse than Google in search quality. Then they made a breakthrough, and now on Runet Yandex is looking better than Google. Although, of course, Google is looking quite well. It seems that if all over the world Google is a common product, then in Russia it is mainly a product for innovators. I have the impression that Google does not yet know exactly how to reach a mass Russian user. It seems that Yandex will continue to be the main market for optimizers in the coming years.

In Russian Google, I have repeatedly been asked what needs to be fixed in technology to become the first. They are a technology company and they have an opinion that technology alone will allow them to be the first. Then, when Yandex was worse than them, I said: “By technology, you are the best in Russia, but your marketing is poor, your place in the market is occupied, you need to buy it.” Now they no longer have a clear technological superiority, but then they began to gradually engage in marketing. Only so far, these attempts have no noticeable effect. Yandex has recovered after a growth illness and is doing everything right.

The optimization business will exist for a long time, but it will change. The paid links market will be stifled someday, so the movement will be towards improving content and selling targeted traffic. Online marketing will move towards integrated services, and Yandex will remain the main target for optimizers.

Contextual advertising will develop towards taking into account the socio-demographic properties of users. Now German Klimenko, the owner of the best Russian counter LiveInternet, is preparing a revolutionary product in this area. In addition, aggregators and “single window services” will develop: a single interface that distributes the advertising budget across various channels.

Due to the crisis, the growth of the Internet marketing market will slow down, but not completely stop. Growth will continue anyway. Advertising budgets will shrink, but since online advertising makes up only 5-10 percent of the total advertising budgets, some of the advertising funds will simply flow to the Internet, because advertising in it is more transparent, predictable and effective. ”