SEM & JIT | Lessons from Bernie Glassman

I HAVE TO say that I have great respect and admiration for this man. And the more I study Toyota & Zen the more and more they become one in the same (which I am learning is really the idea…).

Bernie Glassman, also known as Roshi Bernie Glassman and Tesugen Bernard Glassman is the author, among so many other things, of a book I recently revisited called Instructions to the Cook. I had read Instructions several years ago while living in Boston and I am at a point in my life where I am questioning both my personal and professional paths. I have a small stack of Zen books and for whatever reason, Instructions jumped of the shelf and begged me to read it again. And I am glad I did.

Zen & The Way of Business

Instructions to the Cook is a reflection by Bernie, along with Rick Fields, about the creation of the Greyston Bakery and network of businesses and not-for-profits established in a poverty stricken section of Yonkers, NY beginning in the early 1980′s. Not only is Bernie a trained Zen Master, but he also holds a Ph.D in Applied Mathematics and worked as an aeronautical engineer for McDonnell-Douglas. With that in mind, it would not come to anyones surprise that not only does Bernie relate the ancient Zen teachings of Dogen to modern-day business, he also manages to slip in a reference to Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory control. In discussing sustainability in our daily lives, he writes-

The Zen cook avoids both of these extremes by following the Middle Way of the Buddha. …We try to buy or create as much as we can use – no more and no less. …We shop for clothes to wear, not put in the closet. We buy food to eat, not to sour or rot in the refrigerator. And we do our best to replenish what we use.

The Zen cook does business in the same way. One of the most innovative new management methods, for example, Just-In-Time Inventory (or JIT), makes use of principles of sustainability. Businesses that use JIT minimize their inventories. For example, we deliver fudge brownies to Ben & Jerry’s just as they are needed. That way you do not need to worry about food going bad or tying up huge fees in storage. Too much of anything creates problems.

It’s quite remarkable, but you would think that if a small bakery (again, this was in the early to mid 1980′s; 2004 is another story…) lead by a Zen community employing a staff of recently homeless men and women can understand and implement a tool such as JIT, something like JIT or lean would be easily adopted by the masses.

The Tao of SEM

Okay, so Zen Buddhism and Taoism are not one in the same, but they are closely related. Besides, ‘Zen and the Art of SEM’ or ‘ZenSEM’ sounded too obvious or cliche for a heading…

So how does this apply to Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising? For starters, from my experience, and quoting a very wise man – too much of anything creates problems. When talking about PPC the ‘anything’ in this case refers to keywords. Time and time again I inherit PPC accounts that have 10′s and 100′s of thousands of keywords of which only 20% actually matter (insert Pareto’s 80/20 rule here). And it is becoming more evident that even the 20% can be organized in a way where fewer keywords are in play, but still cover and deliver the same or better conversions. The reduction of keyword inventory eliminates the need to sort and sift through countless irrelevant keywords, reduces cost and provides more time to focus on the value added PPC tasks like ad creative messaging and bidding.

The idea of ‘replenishing what we use’ can loosely translate into the use of replacing keywords with search queries. We buy keywords as ‘bait’ for the actual search query or phrase a user types into a search engine. Once there is enough data to warrant replacing a keyword with a search query – which is the more targeted and accurate thing a user is looking for – the keyword has served its purpose and can either remain in play at a lesser role, be paused or even deleted from inventory.

For some these ideas may be a stretch, but it makes sense to me. Whether its Zen or JIT or PPC or some damn good brownies, it all relates in the end.

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Matt LeVeque is the Service Product Manager at Monetate. He is a Senior Member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and recently completed Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business Certificate in Customer Experience Program. He is a Registered Yoga Teacher, an avid cyclist and recommends living by Velominati Rule #6 – Free your mind and your legs will follow.

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