Monthly Archives: February 2007

The Death of SEO?

According to one CEO out of the UK, yes!  Reading over his position, I do have to say, he does have a point.  This could be one more direct marketing tool that came fast and burned just as fast.  Having played around with SEO myself, I know over the years has become, more and more a non issue in my activities, what the viewers want is more important. 

Here’s the link, you decide.

http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2007/02/27/ceo-says-seo-a-waste-of-time

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The Storm of the Century, a Lesson in Buzz

I’m alive, I made it!  Yes it wasn’t really that hard, the so called storm of the century here in
Minnesota turned out to be the hype of the season.  Expected to get 16 inches of snow in a day, we really only ended up with 8 inches over the entire weekend.  I do have to say, it was a great lesson in buzz though.  If you take a look at it, the weather people seem to have taken a few pages from the viral marketing handbook and did a great job getting the desired response.

 

All last week people kept talking about this so called storm we were going to get that was going to snow us in for days, maybe a whole week before they could clear the roads.  More and more this kept building.  I don’t normally pay attention to the weather people so most of my information was coming from other people, I read the forecast once.  I prepare every season with the essentials so I was already ready, after all, the weather people aren’t always right, like the blizzard of 1991 which shut the entire Minneapolis and St Paul areas down for days. 

 

Friday I went shopping for food at the local grocery store, around 4pm.  It was packed with people stocking up with shopping carts full of food and supplies.  It reminded me of people in the gulf stocking up for hurricanes except up here we get blizzards.  I heard on the radio some out of town sports teams wanted to cancel their weekend games up here because of the storm expected.  Flights were already being cancelled, events cancelled, routine weekend errands were cancelled.  Everyone was expecting to just get snowed in and stuck at home for days.

 

Friday night, the snow came and it came all Saturday and Sunday morning.  I didn’t go anywhere Saturday, as there was no where to go really.  But Sunday when the snow stopped, I ventured out.  A lot of snow but really just a slightly above average storm for the area.  No where near the monster they predicted.  So I went out and found a Thai restaurant open and had spicy Thai food on a cold winter day.

 

I was a bit disappointed, it has been many years since I’ve been in a big storm, I kind of was looking forward to one.  But as I drove around Sunday, the roads had been cleared, which is unusual, normally they take two days to get around to it!  The roads were totally cleaned off which means the road service crews had expected a big one and were ready.  There was far less traffic on the road than usual, many people just stayed home, eating all their supplies they had bought, most likely. 

 

The weather people had created a buzz about the “storm of the century” and had people believing it and acting on it.  Pop Tarts were on sale by the pallet load at the supermarket (Pop Tarts are a big seller during storms), everyone was stocking up on bottled water and foods that could last if the power went out.  Everyone was canceling their plans and staying home for the weekend.  None of this is normal behavior for the area, so the weather buzz did create change.

 

As for me, I went about my weekend as usual. 

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Reversing the 80/20 Rule

Once, a long time ago, I had a really interesting opportunity.  I was working on a project where I was actually analyzing the marketing and sales of various competitors who let me look at their books.  This doesn’t happen everyday so it was rather unique.  They did like most companies, followed the idea that 80% of their business came from 20% of their clients.  This idea generally held true, the top clients brought in the bulk of their business in all cases.

 

Down the road as I ran into more situations, I noticed that a lot of companies run on this unwritten rule, the 80/20 rule.  It essentially translates into, focus your attention on the same 20% that brings in the business and also most of your problems.  The problem aspect comes in that, I also learned, this 20% is generally the same 20% your competitor is focused on too.  This leaves an 80% opportunity!

 

Most companies spend a large amount of time on the accounts that bring in the most money because they bring in the most money.  But this is circle logic.  80% of the market is waiting for someone to serve them.  I’ve seen a lot of companies get into trouble when that 20% decides to do business else where.  Then they have to scramble for new accounts and that snubbed 80% is not so nice after years of neglect. 

 

I never liked the 80/20 rule; frankly it is putting too many eggs in one basket.  I don’t like the idea of 80% of my business coming from a small group of clients or a small group of products.  From a marketing point of view and a strategy point of view, this alarms me, too much is tilted in one area.  Your entire company becomes a slave to those market forces that dictate the success of that 20%.  This means it is harder to ride out economic swings or changes in the market.  What if your 20% is in a fade state like Krispy Kreme was a few years ago and then bang!  Low carb craze kicks in and they are in trouble. 

 

It just makes more sense to go after the 80% and to spread out a bit more.  It’s also generally an under serviced market that can have quite a few gems in it.  I remember looking at one such under served market that turned a profit in 6 months when a new approach to sales and marketing was taken.  A simple design change was all that was needed and competitors were left to scramble for a solution. 

 

The 80/20 is one of those ideas that sounds good and is often correct, but not very good from a strategy point of view.  So it can be rather hard to break away from.  But it is a good idea to make it an assumption you did away with.  NEVER limit yourself to assumptions!  The first thing I always do when I enter a situation is learn what the assumptions are and they proceed to break them or prove them.  Assumptions limit, business should never be about limitations based on an assumption.  Who benefits from an assumption that limits you?

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Making Recruiting a Competitive Advantage Part 2

Second, how you interact with candidates is an area of branding.  Some companies use recruiters, check them out, see if their methods are candidate friendly.  I’ve had recruiters tell me a salary on the phone, only to find out it’s $25k less when we got serious.  Or the ever fun, they call you all excited and then a week later they disappear and you never hear from them again.  If you are the recruiter, this hurts you, people remember that and we do talk amongst ourselves about you and stay away from those with bad manners.  No company would do that to a paying customer, they know it would cost them too much in the long run.  It costs you nothing to be polite.

 

Same with HR people, many of them call me up with little knowledge of the position and start to interrogate me on the phone, this may be the first person I talk to and already I will feel like maybe I should keep looking.    Or my favorite, I actually do get a little kick out of this; they send their junior representative to interview me, fresh out of college and full of energy and acts more like it is the Inquisition rather than an interview.  I don’t get offended; it’s kind of amusing, but also kind of telling about the company as well.  In their effort to “learn” about me, they reveal so much about the company.  As a candidate, we are sizing you up and this kid you sent to interview us, is your face.  Imagine I’m a paying customer that’s got a big project, are you still going to send this kid to interrogate me?  Your competitor will be happy if you did.  You won’t take this from your sales rep treating your clients this way, don’t take this from your HR rep treating candidates that way, it seriously damages your brand and ability to be competitive.  When you allow this to happen, you shrink your candidate pool not by one but by dozens or hundreds, thus you create a situation where you are already less competitive because serious and good candidates who find out about your bad hiring procedures, will not even talk to you, but they will talk to your competitor.  See the bottom line impact?

 

Even when a candidate is not the one you want, it pays to be polite.  I know of one guy who was not the right candidate and the hiring manager said he knows someone at another company who might be able to use his skills.  That candidate left feeling really good!  You may have clients that need people and candidates that come your way may be a good fit for your client.  Imagine if you send your client or vendors, someone that helps their business, you have a win-win situation now.  Your client is happy, you just saved them the effort of having to place ads and interview and the candidate is happy and you have someone new on the inside you will probably be a lot more receptive to doing business with you in the future versus someone they hired who doesn’t care either way.  That’s branding, that’s good HR that’s putting the pieces together and making it work for all involved.  If you can’t find them a place, a polite letter informing them that they are no longer being considered, will often do.  A lot of companies don’t do this, it’s dumb not to.  You are giving up a great opportunity to brand your company.  Ritz
Carlton does a good job of this (from what I’ve heard). 

 

Don’t leave people hanging or snub them.  I dealt with a local company, I was actually very excited about and when I got a chance to speak to someone it was “what is your salary expectation.”  No hello, no thank you for considering us.  Then a curt, “that’s too high, we won’t consider you.”  I don’t buy from that company anymore.  Two sentences is all it took and millions spend on promos and branding just went down the drain in two emails.  If you read the job boards of job seekers, you’ll find my reaction is the norm.  People remember bad service.  HR and your recruiting process IS a service element.  Candidates are often paying customers, you damage your brand when you forget that HR is as much a client contact point as your call center or sales reps. In marketing we are taught it takes 6 to 10 good efforts to erase one bad experience, but one bad experience can replace 100 good efforts on your part.  So for every candidate you snub of those 10,000 a week application, how many potential customers did you just lose?  How much did that cost you in potential sales?  How much is that going to cost you in redoubling your branding effort to try and win them back?  We know it costs a lot more to win back a disgruntled customer than to service them in a way that makes them happy, how much is your bad recruiting costing you?  I can tell you, it’s more than zero.

 

Here’s another example, the author of Career Warfare, David D’Alessandro CEO of John Hancock, wrote in his book about a similar experience.  He had interviewed with a company that snubbed him, they just wouldn’t return his calls after acting excited and saying they were highly interested.  Years later, that company that snubbed him was a vendor seeking his rather large contract.  The guy who interviewed him was giving the pitch, David reminded him of their previous encounter.  They guy’s gut must have dropped.  David did not give him the contract but did make him go through the process only to be denied the contract.  Bad HR can cost you!  It hurt that vendor by costing them a big sale.  They went from being a potential, to having no chance at all.  Bad recruiting procedure can and do come back to haunt you.  The thing is, that vendor did what most companies do, now if they were doing what most companies do, alarms should be going of in your head right now about what you are losing now and in the future. 

If your company changes its recruiting and implement branding and sales like procedures, you are almost assured a competitive advantage since so few actually do anything even close!  We did an experiment once at one place I was at.  Two divisions, in one division we did it like everyone else hires, make and ad, ask for resumes, interview, etc…  Then we did it the way I’m advocating, find out how people in that profession communicate and then ask for proposals asking how they will make things happen for us and on our end we highlighted what we can do for them.  There was a 6 fold increase in quality candidates with the branding approach.  Quality candidates as in people who demonstrated they had the skills to do the job.  There were more resumes in the standard way, but the number of qualified applicants was far lower.  The hiring process cost was lower with the branding way by about 23%.  The turnover rate was 1% versus 12% with the standard way.  Translate that into bottom line results and we have a cost saving and a better ROI per hire because we kept the people longer and had to devote less to hiring new people.  Since we branded in the hiring process, we got a better fit and productivity was up as well.  From a competitive point of view, the candidates we received were more serious and more energized about working with us, thus we had our choice of candidates.  Those that did not become our final choice, we gave them a small discount thanking them for their time and in some cases, directed them to clients who could use their skills and gave them an introduction.  Some of them were hired by the clients and those companies were happy because they saw us as really looking out for them and their interests.  So it was a win all around.  We had great candidates, better bottom line performance, higher moral, happy clients and a stronger brand!  That’s the kind of results HR has been striving for!

 

I hope you are as excited as I am about this, a huge window of opportunity to really create a competitive advantage in an area where conformity has so often been the norm.  A break out strategy would put any company on the map!  The opportunity to really make recruit work in ways that get better results, I’d jump on that.  Come recruiters and HR, break out, be different, be proactive!  You all know the current recruiting method has flaws, why not be the answer!  Quantify your results and demonstrate real performance improvements and as a recruiter, people will be banging your door down with business.  As an HR person, you will finally get that seat at the table you always felt HR deserved.  Business is about taking calculated risks, not playing it safe.  The current process is playing it safe, that’s why it fails.  Be different, be better and get better results!

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Marketing Metrics Part 2

Today marketing metrics have evolved from various schools of thought.  There are four big ones out there that essentially operate as independent islands.  Consumer marketing metrics, product marketing metrics, direct/database marketing metrics and Internet marketing metrics.  Each area has their own set of tools used to define how they see the world via quantified data.  Each area has their strengths and weaknesses.  No one area has achieved the overall approach, the holy grail of marketing metrics. 

 

Consumer marketing is mainly driven by large datasets and market share data.  You’ll find a lot of statistical analysis in this area combined with qual data.  A lot of brand management data gets thrown in here as well.  Although this is the oldest of the metrics area, it also is the least well defined.  When industries try to adopt the same system used at General Mills, they often find it comes up short for their needs.  I remember talking to JP Morgan about this and the person in charge was all for it in words, but the look on her face said something else.  And those behind closed doors had no faith in the changes at all.  Mainly because the area they were adding these metrics to, was really a B2B business with individual clients they knew by name, not a mass market with millions of customers.  A lot of companies want the same success seen by the big CPG’s in marketing, but they don’t understand that CPG marketing is designed for those companies, not others and problems will come up if taken to other industries.

 

Consumer marketing metrics often focuses on market share, which I think it does very well.  Those guys can get in there and really crunch those market share numbers.  Pulling the economic data, store sales data and trend data and piecing them together in a way that gives you a really good picture of who has what in the market.  But if you want to know the individual and how all that marketing effort spent by CPG’s affect the individual, those metrics come up short.

 

Product marketing metrics, here we move into gross margins, promo analysis and forecasting.  This is what they do best.  Product marketers are very good at discussing the various aspects of why a certain product is performing the way it is.  You will find metrics that define, pricing, mark up, profit impact, new product purchase rate, and are very well defined in product marketing.  Good big picture metrics like SWOT or BCG also get used often here.  Often a bit better at defining the actual bottom line impact than the consumer metrics, product marketing metrics do a good job of getting more into the nuts and bolts and how is or why of what your marketing dollars are doing in terms of product performance.

 

Where product marketing often comes short is the big picture.  They are very good with the tactical, the big world view is often lacking and thus, the true global impact is missing.  This is not really the fault of the product marketer; it’s more the way in which product marketing is seen, as focused on the product, not really allowed to go beyond its own borders within the organization.  Some companies do allow it and the problem I point out is virtually eliminated.  But those companies are few, thus the majority of product marketers are still boxed into a defined area, at the mercy of metrics that never really explain why they are there.

 

Direct marketing, is very much a numbers game.  They are very good at direct response, response rate analysis, ROI on response rate, lead generation ROI, etc…  They are very numbers driven and can quantify all their actions.  This strength becomes their weakness as well.  Defined by their numbers, they become trapped by them as well.  Direct marketers live and die by their numbers.  Pretty much stuck to take an action based on the numbers, there is little room for the creative side of marketing or the ability to just go with the intuitive side.  This really bleeds out a large part of marketing from the direct marketing metrics.  Essentially, they end up doing their job with one hand tied behind their backs.

 

In a sense, Internet marketers also have the same pros and cons of direct marketers.  So I won’t go into this other than their metrics of choice are different.  SEO analysis, click through analysis, shopping cart conversion analysis are the more common tool they use.  But beyond that, essentially the same.

 

Each area has a good solid plus side to them.  They also have a side most marketers would wish to get rid of on the negative side.  In my next installment, I’ll go into how to do that.  Which may be a week or more, depending on how I get over this cold I got this past weekend.

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Making Recruiting A Competitive Advantage Part 1

Companies spend millions cultivating the right image they see as ideal for them.  They spend millions on branding, promotions, R&D and training.  They spend millions on training sales reps and customer service reps.  They spend millions on consultants to help them have the best service so that customers are happy and come back for more business.  However there is an Achilles heal in this process that can literally be like cutting one’s wrist.  Very few companies focus on the service provided to the professional communities from which they recruit.  This can spell disaster as millions spent on branding and service go down the drain due to a poorly designed and often dehumanizing recruiting procedures. 

 

There are plenty of articles and blogs complaining about the hiring process, that’s not what this is about.  It’s about focusing on the solution, not point fingers.

 

The hiring process in the vast majority of companies, fail to recognize that the professional communities they need to recruit from, are customers.  How you treat them is just as important as you treat a paying customer.  Would you ever send an untrained sales rep that knew little about the product line to a valued customer?  No.  But companies do send poorly informed people to interview candidates, people who are not intimate with the needs desired in the position to be filled.  Would you send a sales rep to do a sale that did not actually know how to sell?  No, but companies do send people to interview who know virtually nothing about interviewing.  Would you force your customer to conform to an often dehumanizing and often misleading process to do business with you?  No, but companies do it all the time when hiring.  When companies brand, they seek a unique position and method of interaction with clients, a competitive edge.  So why do these same companies use “me too” methods of recruiting, is not recruiting a competitive area as well?

 

All these examples point to the short comings that kill a company’s efforts.  Some companies can’t get good talent because of their recruiting, people come out saying it is dehumanizing and word gets out, then you can’t even pay people to talk to you.  How you present your company to the professional communities you recruit from is as much a part of your branding as it is to how you present your company to your clients.  Also, you wouldn’t want to sell your product just like your competitor would you, forcing your customer to conform to “industry standard,” you seek to meet their needs and use that to get more customers.  So the answer is very simple, it comes down to respect coupled with the right focus and you will gain financially from your recruiting process.

 

Recruiting is like sales and marketing and should be treated as a part of your branding process.  I can take branding metrics and apply them to recruiting and demonstrate just how a bad process actually is costing you money.  If you apply the principles of sales and marketing to recruiting, you’ll see it as a profit producing activity that strengthens the brand and helps you gain top talent. 

 

The best approach to sales and marketing is to focus on the needs of your market and the client, the same goes with recruiting, focus on the candidate.  I know, some will say “but Edward, I get 10,000 resumes a week, I can’t do that!”  Well you can, because if you are getting 10,000 a week, you doing it wrong.  You have a system that focuses on volume, not quality.  And in branding, it’s all about the quality!  As I mentioned in my last post about HR, how you write ads is the problem, RFP is the way to go!  This thins the pool really quick.  If someone is just passive, they won’t put forth the effort, any one can send a resume, just point and click.  An RFP takes time, knowledge and skill to do.  Only people are serious, interested and skillful will put forth the effort.  I talk about RFP because I come from marketing, this is what we know, if you are recruiting for another area, focus on the method that is most natural for the professionals in that area.  Most of us learned our trade to be good at our trade, we didn’t learn it so we could be expert resume writers.  So stop asking your customer to conform to you, conform to them!  If you do this, you will get much better answers.  Most marketers know how to do an RFP write up or marketing plan, it’s second nature, so if you really want to know their talent, use the method they are most familiar with!  Coke and Pepsi don’t sell only one drink, they don’t just sell soda!  They have water, juice, sport drinks, etc…  Why, they know not everyone likes cola, so they adapt to their market’s needs, it’s the same with recruiting.  Ask for a resume if you are hiring an resume writer, beyond that, find out what is the method of communication used in the target profession and use those channels to reach people you want to hire.  The quality of response will be much greater.

 

When you target your recruiting as a marketing effort to attract talent, you will gain better results because you are focusing on what is natural to those candidates.  Resumes are out, they never tell you want you really want to know.  If you learn what is used by those professional when they are selling to their clients and use those methods, you’ll learn more.  Ask the people in the department or area in your company, what methods they use, and start from there.  The cost of learning these methods pay for themselves down the road in the process.  And it gives you a competitive advantage that in a world of “me too” recruiting, should be getting you excited.

 

You could finally break away from the broken system and really engage candidates with what you truly want to know.  Express your passion for what your company does just as you would to client and move beyond the dog and pony show.  The discussion you have with candidates will be more frank and more on target and you will be able to gage who is the right fit much better than you an with the current processes used.

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Passion For the Art of Business

Passion, it makes the world go round.  People have passion for the things they do, the people they love, the places they go.  So much of the world today exists because of passion.  Much of what is admired in the world was created by passion.  So why do so many in business work so hard to take passion out of the equation?

 

My passion has been and is, business.  Many people seem to have a hard time understanding this because they are either in business because they feel they need to be, or they are driven by the money factor alone.  Yes, I want to make money, that is an aspect of business.  But I fell in love with business and the idea of what you can do with business, the creation process of taking an idea and making it a reality and developing it and watching the business of it grow.  There is an art and a science to it and yes I spend my free time studying it.  Some people collect CD’s, others visit as many Starbucks as they can, me, my passion is creating ideas that change business for the better.  It’s much like a well developed piece of music.  You know when you hear one because it stands the test of time, it always invokes a feeling of aw, people stop and listen and are enveloped by the music as it plays.  For me, I seek the same with well designed business models and programs.  The ultimate customer experience, one in which it truly is an experience for both the consumer and business alike.  Profitable for the company, stakeholders, employees and customers, in their own way.  This is my passion, each piece of the experience is like a musical note, being places in the right place, flowing from one note to the next, allowing for the experience to be so great, the consumer wants to come back for another and another, not because it is an addiction but because it truly delivers and speaks directly to their true needs and wants.  Like a great song, a great business process is designed to great aw at the satisfaction is creates yet is functional and creates profits as well.

 

All throughout high school and college, I read every business book I could get my hands on.  Went to seminars, business camps and conferences, I couldn’t wait to get into the workforce and contribute!  I graduated in 1996, so it’s been just over 10 years now.  Over the years, I have noticed that the analytical side of business has grown very strong.  So often when an idea comes along, a lot of people seem to embrace it and throw away all the good points of the past ideas.  So when analysis and bottom line really took hold, the idea that passion should help drive your success, when away for the most part.  And while I do agree that analysis is highly important and advocate it myself, it does not mean that the passion side should die out.  In fact, to truly be successful a business needs to develop both equally, in equal strengths.  I first really hit on how to do this, 5 years ago.  Since then I have fine tuned my methods to a point where it almost is like a very well composed piece.

 

I’m currently job hunting, I’ve had a very unusual career path.  When I graduated college with my Bachelors, I remember a professor asking me what I wanted to do.  I told him, “I want to create a business model that balances human and profit performance in a way that each side has its needs met without sacrifice.”  He said it will never happen.  Funny thing is, he wasn’t the only one.  People kept telling me this all the time, however I knew if I dug deep enough, I’d find the answer.  Good thing I didn’t listen because I actually did find the way to do this.  I found it because I have a passion for finding such solutions.

 

Passion finds the truest solution to every business problem there is.  As I said, I’m currently job hunting.  As a result, I get to view a lot of companies and how they present themselves either online, in print or in person.  I have to say, I am surprised at how little in terms of passion is expressed.  It reminds me of when I came to an organization that had a lot of fear in it, due to the poor economic climate.  Since I knew I would be out the door if I didn’t perform, I just demonstrated my passion for business and how that passion translates into profit performance.  I helped my team to express their passion for what they were doing to and if it wasn’t their passion, find what is and get them in that position.  We became the best performing group in the company and one of the top in the industry, in less than a year.  I didn’t throw away analysis, in fact, it was a huge factor in my success, but I found a way to balance all the needs of the company to gain the advantage and success they had been seeking.

 

Passion is highly under rated today.  I was talking to a friend who told me about the free company screen savers and posters with the mission statement that were going up at her office.  This was supposed to instill pride and passion for one’s work.  That’s not the actually result I was picking up from her.  If you really want to know a person’s passion, ask!  This company didn’t ask, they just assumed and they assumed incorrectly.  It costs you nothing to ask your employees or a job candidate, what’s their passion?  A savvy manager will learn how to use that to their advantage.  If you have an engineer who is passionate about the technical aspects of their job but not the paperwork, free them from the paperwork and let them loose on the technical stuff.  His or her performance level will go up and so will your profitability. 

 

If you have sales reps who are passionate about their job, when your industry goes in a down cycle, this will pay for itself where as your competitors may have sales reps who are there because it pays the bills.  The passionate one will outsell.  Passion is about taking what someone loves to do, letting them do it and getting out of their way so they can make your company more profitable.  You can measure how they perform with all the analysis and bottom line tools you want, after that.  But the passion needs to come first.  The profits will follow if you lead the team in the correct manner.

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