Archive for the ‘business’ Category

3 Kinds of Value from Work

There are three ways an employee can deliver value.

1. Generate Sales
This kind of value is the most straightforward and the easiest to measure and incentivize which is why sales people are often paid base + commission. There work shows up in the company books under “revenue”.

2. Make the Product / Perform the Service / Contribute to Operations
Once a sale is made the company needs to fulfill its contractual obligation and deliver the product or perform the service. Those people who are “on the line” or “doing the work” are necessary to fulfilling said contract. These show up in the books under “variable costs”. Then there are those who are performing ancillary services like keeping the books, keeping IT systems are running, ordering office supplies. They show up in the books under “overhead”. They’re “the cost of doing business”. The “overhead” people enable the “variable cost” people to do their jobs. The people who do this work  show up in the company books under “expenses”. Their worth is often measured and incentivized by their productivity.

When presenting a business case to your CFO to hire a new employee your justification will lean heavily on whether this person falls under one of the first two value-add categories. However, there’s a third way to add value that’s key to the sustained growth and competitiveness (and therefore survival) of any organization.

3. Innovate

Innovators can and should come from anywhere in the organization but people who have a knack for innovation tend to be known as strategy or idea people. On the surface, it sometimes seems that they don’t do any “real work” and it’s difficult to measure what they do. They might come up with a new process that increases operational productivity, thus lowering the expenses. Or they came up with a process for better lead generation idea that increased the amount of leads and therefore more revenue. Or they came up with a new product which led to a new line of business. But while these things are measurable, they’re not necessarily sustainable. Processes and products can be easily imitated by competitors. But what happens when innovators help salespeople sell by coming up with a new persuasive technique? What happens when they  inspire a strong corporate culture that motivates other employees to like their jobs, exceed expectations and innovate themselves? What happens when they become really effective at spreading knowledge or fostering a learning culture thus making everyone else smarter and therefore perform their jobs better?

These contributions are “priceless” in that mastercard commercial sort of way. They’re hard to imitate and are integral to sustained growth. When hiring a new employee or evaluating an existing employee try to factor in this third “priceless” value even if it means coming up with some sort of “innovation quotient” to measure them by. It’ll pay off in the long run.

I’m not really friends with [brand name]

So Razorfish puts out a new FEED report and all marketing 2.0 punditry is aghast.  All the happy hippie, trippy things we’ve been telling brands to do like authentically engaging our consumer in a meaningful dialogue using social media because it’s, er, social has been all for naught. Turns out, when people ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ brands, they’re really just looking for a deal. All that time and money spent trying to figure out this social media thing could’ve been spent on coupons?

Folks, the sky isn’t falling.  Take a look at the data:

Reason for Following a Brand on Twitter

Reason you friend a brand on Facebook or MySpace

56.5% of those who follow a brand on twitter and 63.1% who friend a brand on Facebook or MySpace do it for some reason other than getting a deal. Deal seeking was the plurality of rationales but not the majority.

Second, what did you expect? Did we forget our 1% rule? Our Forrester technographics? It only takes one click to follow or fan a brand, it takes a lot more effort to evangelize. That’s why there’s more joiners and spectators than creators and critics. Not everyone in your digital embassy is going to be a brand ambassador. Like a real-life embassy, some functionaries are there because the job pays the bills and offers nice benefits.

Third, yes they want a deal but they still might be exhibiting a preference for your brand. What the study should have done is ask those who indicated that they were looking for a deal, whether they friended or followed a brand’s competitor as well. I’d be curious to know how many Coke fans are also Pepsi fans, how many Nike fans also follow Adidas. True deal seekers, the ones a brand wouldn’t want to be friends with, are brand agnostic; they’ll take whatever’s the cheapest. A person who genuinely prefers Brand X and sees an opportunity to join “club brand” due to “special offers” might be thinking, “I’m a good customer, I deserve something special from you, Brand X, in return.”

Whoah, whoah, wait a minute. Is that how to treat a friend? You’re only friends with that guy with season’s tickets so he’ll take you to a game? What about his winning personality? You’re shared values? Please forgive the marketer trained on “brand personality”, “brand as a person”, “personae development” and “personal brands”  for forgetting that brands are not actually people. They are representations of something to be purchased so our relationship to them is fundamentally a business transaction. Sure there are people who worship at the altar of your brand logo but those valuable customers are the exceptions. Here’s the deal <bad pun intended 😉 >, the deal may be the impetus for them becoming a “fan” but providing them with an engaging experience afterward might convert some into “true fans”. Deals bring them in, experiences keep them coming back.

A corollary to this, maybe we’ve infused the word “brand” with too much meaning and associations. Maybe we need to back to a simpler definition. How about, “the intangibles that cause people to prefer and value one product/service over others”

From Webmasters to Content Curators

Recently read Rohit Barghava’s post Manifesto For The Content Curator: The Next Big Social Media Job Of The Future? and the first thought that entered my mind was how many new, semi-ridiculous job titles have been created since the dot-com era and how many more will likely be created in the future.

The Webmaster

Old Business Card

My very first business card

You start off as a “web paduwon” and after rigorous training and a series of tests, you become anointed a WEBMASTER. What were we thinking? Was it a product of some D&D dungeon masters wanting to parlay their fantasy title into the real world? I checked, there were only two job postings for webmasters. The single wizard with mastery of all things web has fragmented into a large mix of job titles that actually describe what the people do web developer, web designer, information architect, etc.

The Content Manager

Used to see more of these and the job descriptions seemed to resemble that of a magazine editor (only the content was online) or that which  we currently call an “information architect”. I saw one posting on for a Content Manager:

This role will involve:

– Assisting in the planning of and responsible for maintaining the presentation layer of product offerings

– Maintaining relationships with clients and suppliers.

– Providing ongoing guidance and support to clients.

– Testing video and audio content for use on devices.

– Analyzing and troubleshooting issues related to platform.


Content Engineer

This was actually a job title I held while freelancing for an agency in Australia at the turn of the millennium. I was an HTML coder; I’m not sure what was engineered and I don’t think actual professional engineers would’ve liked code monkeys sullying their professional designation much like sanitary engineers (see the second definition).

The Community Manager

Here’s one of the first web 2.0 titles that have come about. Community managers do important work listening to their constituents and evangelize the brands they represent. They tend to be skilled communicators and excellent at creating and managing relationships. But it’s sounding too much like content managers so I’m wondering how long this title will last.

The Content Curator

Rohit Barghava describes the content curator as “someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online”. I bet a lot of people do this as part of their job and it summarizes a lot of people’s tweetstreams (myself included). I just can’t see this being a full-time gig.

These are just a sample. There are likely many more to come. Afterall, in Karl Fisch’s  Did You Know/Shift Happens series of videos, he states that the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004.

Why Kids Don’t Dig Twitter

There’s been a slew of articles and posts pointing out that unlike Kellogg’s Trix, Twitter ain’t for kids (See here and here). Why? Here’s my theory.

When you go to school (from nursery school up to 4th year university), your social life is laid out right in front of you. Forced into classes where for the majority of the day you’ll be spending close quarters with 20-30 other people your age, it’s a trial-by-fire lesson on navigating the social landscape and that forms the basis of your social life. You make friends in the offline world and you enhance those friendships in the online world. Email and later Facebook were perfectly suited to this social enhancement.

Then you leave school, when you do, you leave the convenient social life. You’ve grown apart from many of your own friends and meeting new people now takes effort. Lavalife and eHarmony have built their business on this insight. Twitter did so unconsciously. As I tweeted a while ago, “Twitter let’s you instant message the public”. The public, not your friends, not your acquaintances, but people you haven’t met yet…but might like to.

This is the crux behind Dave Allen’s post, Facebook Linkedin Twitter – Past Present and Future. Facebook connects you with your past friends and your current friends online. LinkedIn for the most part connects with you with professional contacts you’ve crossed paths with. Twitter’s an open network. You follow whomever you like, you @reply whomever you like, and Tweetups are generally open to anyone who knows about them. Twitter is the social network where you get to know new people. Something you really don’t need to make an effort to do when you’re young.

The Future of Magazines

Back in university, I wrote a paper on online magazines. At the time, Slate and Salon were new on the scene, PointCast was a popular screensaver/newsreader and there was this web site called Pathfinder that hosted a lot of the Time Warner titles. The question then was how an online magazine was going to make money if they gave away their content for free. My how times have changed. Now the print publications are wondering how they can avoid the fate of some newspapers.