DK\’s Blog

July 13, 2006

Corporate Bloggers – Evil or The Next Generation Loyalty Tool?

Filed under: Business — darrenkelly @ 3:36 am

So Dell launched a blog today, joining the ranks of Earthlink and other leading-edge companies who have decided to interact with their customers in a new way.  After a few harsh words from a couple of bloggers, it seems the vast majority of the blogging community is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and see how they do.   The bigger question is whether “corporate blogs” are merely another marketing channel for companies, or is there something more here?  I’d argue there is MUCH more here.   In fact, this is a glimpse of the future of customer loyalty management.

Marketing 101:  1975 – 2005

I recently sat in a lecture at Harvard Business School by one of the “old school” marketing strategy pundits of the last 30 years – Ben Shapiro.  Shapiro dutifully put up slides showing how companies should understand their customer base by slicing & dicing data about how much profit potential each group of customers represents today, and their growth prospects in the future.   As usual, he is the king of the one-liner –  “The problem with older customers is that they tend to die more often.”   The presentation reminded me of Bain’s Fred “Customer Loyalty” Reicheld approach – use lots of data to make decisions about which customers are the good ones.    This has been a powerful way for a generation of marketing strategy MBA’s to analyze what makes their customer’s tick.  However, it is an approach that was built in the pre-wired world.    Even the emergence of the Internet only prompted companies to create smaller segments of customers (direct marketing to a “segment of one”) and improve customer service. 

Marketing 101: 2006 – ???

The blogosphere changes everything.  Now, as Dell has already proven 24 hours into its launch, companies can create A DIALOG with customers.   Not feedback from surveys.  Not customized marketing campaigns.  Not automated email responses or “press #2 to reach a Spanish-speaking salesperson”.  We are talking about creating respectful relationships – heck even friendships – between employees and customer “mavens”.    Already you can see bloggers willing to provide frank and helpful feedback to Dell’s IR & PR people about site design, product improvements, and they’ve cleared up a hoax about Dell’s keyboard loggers.    These types of feedback are a marketers dream, because not only does the company get good, honest feedback, the feedback is coming from influential customers who themselves are connected to thousands of other customers and potential customers.   The impact of one friendly interaction between Dell and a blogger is amplied exponentially, in near real time, and without advertising expense.   

Just when you thought productivity couldn’t improve any more (after email, the web & Blackberries have driven dramatic gains for the past 10 years), here is a development that will allow companies to quickly react to customer concerns and diseminate their responses instantly to vast interconnected groups of their customers and prospects.   Marketeers rejoice – a world of real-time feedback is here and you no longer have to make product decisions in a vacuum.  

Poor Ben Shapiro.

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June 27, 2006

Doggie Piggy Bunny Presentations for Senior Management

Filed under: Business,Career Advice — darrenkelly @ 6:14 am

It never ceases to amaze me how many business peeople don’t know how to present their analysis and data.    Even the best analysis falls down if it can’t be quickly consumed by the people around you, especially senior managers.   In the spirit of public service, I thought I’d send out this helpful primer on how to do it.  Straight from Bain training.  Here goes:

When presenting information to sr. managers, you have to “dumb it down” to child-like simplicity.  Doggie.  Piggy.  Bunny.

1)       If it is more than 5 slides, and a table of contents that re-appears with scrolling square box around the section you are about to begin2)       Each slide should have a heading, a “tagline” and a chart or bullet points.3)       Aim to have many more chart slides than bullet point slides.   CEO’s like charts, and it ensures your analysis is data-driven, not opinion based.4)       Each chart page should have a “so what”.   What is the one (maybe two) takeaway(s) from this chart?   What is the most important point about this data.5)       Have a conclusions slide.  Either put first or last, depending on whether you think you have to prove it to your audience.  If they are skeptical, show the charts first, THEN the conclusion.  Otherwise lead with the conclusions.  If your boss learns to trust you, he/she may not ever look beyond it.6)       Try to use a mostly white background in PowerPoint so it is easy to see.7)       Have consistent font sizes page to page.   Never use more than 3 font sizes, if you can.    Believe it or not, changing font sizes is the biggest reason people don’t take a presentation seriously.   There are studies on this.   No funky fonts either.  Arial, Times New Roman or maybe something that looks like one of those.

8)       No cartoons.  Ever.

9)    If you are making a logical argument, Remember MECE.   Are the outcomes you’ve evaluated both Mutually Exclusive and Cumulatively Exhaustive?   If so, and you’ve proved which is correct with your great data slides, start looking for a car to match your big promotion!

June 23, 2006

What GMAT’s and LSAT’s Really Test

Filed under: Business,Career Advice — darrenkelly @ 10:20 am

Tonight at the Denver Entrepreneur of the Year Award dinner (actually, 8 “Entrepreneurs of the Year” in 8 categories, with 3 companies in each, proving that the sponsor, Ernst & Young, really knows how to make all potential clients feel loved), I learned something from Brent, an attorney at our law firm Cooley.

He used to work for Princeton Review, the group that sells books and (now) courses on how to do well on the GMAT.   I did pretty well on the GMAT, so I felt comfortably smug sharing my honest belief that the only reason I did well is that as a kid I used to do lots of puzzles from “Games Magazine”, and many of the stupid GMAT questions required the same sort of canned rules & tricks to quickly answer them – much like the video games of today which require players to learn the “secrets” of unlocking the next level.   I thought this was a truly idiotic way of assessing intelligence, and that doing well on the GMAT or LSAT only proved that you knew that there was a system of rules, and if you figured out the secrets, you could win.

Brent pointed out that THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE EXAMS ARE ATTEMPTING TO REWARD – people who figure out “the game” and “the secrets” to winning.  

This is a stunning insight that every college-bound high-school student, and frankly, most participants in the overall corporate Rat-Race should memorize.    GMATs, and much of corporate life, IS A GAME.   Figure out the rules, and you win.   I always felt this way about most college courses (it isn’t what you learn, but the fact you figured out the way to get good grades with each professor) but the larger lesson is smack-down, in-your-face life-changing.  The same rule applies to almost every part of life.  Since I’m mostly familiar with how economic incentives rule behavior (the only other one is sex, which I’m pretty sure is the main reason people want to do well economically, but that is a topic for another posting later), here are my best guesses at the “secrets” of winning the economic game:

 – You have to be lucky to win

 – You have to put yourself in a position that increases your odds of being lucky.

That is it.   Talent, effort, etc. are important, but those are a given.  Lots of people are smart.  Lots of people work hard.  Everyone knows some jerk who made a fortune, despite obvious character flaws that should have prevented he/she from ever being promoted from assistant hamburger flipper.   But if you apply this test, I bet you 10 out of 10 will be people who took a chance to put themselves in a position for the big win.   Whether it be entrepreneurs in a start-up eating cans of corn and sharing a house with their fellow employees, or mega-million atheletes who achieve the pinacle of success in their field, or traders on Wall Street, the big winners hold a ticket in a lottery where the probablity-weighted odds are a lot better than the ol’ powerball draw.

So there you have it.   I passed the GMAT in 1991, and just now figured out how it was truly relevant.

June 9, 2006

Crowdsourcing – the Strategy Consultant’s Next Big Thing?

Filed under: Business,Uncategorized — darrenkelly @ 11:20 pm

In olden days, strategy consultants from Bain, McKinsey & BCG would show up at the door of a Fortune 500 company with a small army of Harvard, Yale & Princeton undergrads & MBAs who would sift through mountains of internal data to answer lofty strategic questions such as "Will we make better margins with product A or product B?" and "Should we expand into Uruguay or Ecuador?".    After 4 months and thousands of brilliant man-hours (woman-hours?, person-hours? FTE-hours? what is the politically correct term these days), a hypothesis would emerge, powerpoint slides would be prepared, a senior partner from the partnership would come down from the mountain and present "the answer" to a delighted CEO.

Now, in newer times, perhaps Bain & McKinsey should save their money and forget about hiring all those smart Harvard grads and "Crowdsource" the answer.   Instead of paying a team of big brains with a total of 100 years of business experience, McKinsey can simply post the question to the universe of New Media readers – bloggers, chat-room pundits, web-surfers, etc. – and get their collective opinion.     In this way, McKinsey accesses thousands of years of experience.   An interesting effect we see in natural statistics is that even the dumb-ass opinions collected along the way tend to cancel each other out, leaving a collective 'average' answer which tends to be correct, because it reflects the real information provided by each opinion.   It gets better – if you can weight the opinions (such as people putting $$ bets behind their answers), you start getting a VERY accurate answer – just like the stock market.  

You heard it here first – crowdsouring will be the next big business tool preached by business guru's.  Move over 2×2 SWOT analysis, here comes the crowd.

June 8, 2006

Let the Chilean Farmers Mine for Gold!

Filed under: Business,GeoPolitics — darrenkelly @ 9:33 pm

I received a petition from my Canadian in-laws recently (see below) that calls for the restriction of Barrick Gold Mining Company from building a Gold mine in a "pristine" part of Chili.    I thought it would be important for someone to express the reasonable, libertarian economic argument about why it is in everyone's best interests, even "the Greenies" to let Barrick build the mine.  Here goes.

The farmers will make 10x the money from the jobs they will get pulling Gold out of the mine so Chinese & Indian folks can wear gold jewelry.   This makes a lot of people happy.  (Smiling farmers with money, Smiling people with Jewelry).    In 50 years when the gold is gone, they’ll fill the hole.   In 50 more years, trees will grow on the spot.   You may notice the difference, but it isn’t going to be the end of the world.  I’m also betting that Barrick will go to extraordinary lengths to ensure the rivers flow around the mine, and ensure that run-off of heavy metals is eliminated – in recent years mining technology has advanced to the point that this is no longer a problem.  In fact, in
Africa, they use BACTERIA to separate the gold out.
The people who run Barrick are not evil.   They will do their best to protect the environment for our grandchildren.   Call them and go for coffee with some of them and I bet you have more in common with them than not.It comes down to this – which is worse?  

1)       Chileans have to put up with noise, and the ugliness of a mine for 3 generation

2)       Chilean farmers remain poor, uneducated, have poor healthcare, and 3 generations of their children don’t have the opportunity to see this incredible world because they don’t have the wealth.    

You can argue about which is worse, but in case after case after case around the world for 1000’s of years, people want a better life, and more opportunity for their children, and have decided #1 is the lesser evil.   THIS WILL NOT STOP.  EVER.  HUMANS ARE HUMANS.

This is a big planet, and yes, we are changing it.  Yes we are probably wrecking parts of it.   But the ONLY way for us to prevent ourselves from ruining it is MAKING EVERYONE ON THE PLANET AS RICH AS POSSIBLE SO WE CAN AFFORD “GREEN” TECHNOLOGIES TO SUPPORT OURSELVES IN A LOW-IMPACT WAY.    A capitalist, free-trade, open market approach will ensure this happens for developing nations and their farmers.

Let’s start mining!


Appeal!

"…….Dear friends who care about our earth. Judge for
yourself if you want to take action.
In the Valle de San Felix, the purest water in

Chile
runs from 2 rivers, fed by 2 glaciers.
Water is a most precious resource, and wars will be
fought for it.
Indigenous farmers use the water, there is no
unemployment, and they provide the second largest
source of income for the area.
Under the glaciers has been found a huge deposit of
gold, silver and other minerals. To get at these, it
would be necessary to break, to destroy
the glaciers – something never conceived of in the
history of the world and to make 2 huge holes, each
as big as a whole mountain, one for extraction
and one for the mine's rubbish tip.
The project is called PASCUA LAMA. The company is
called Barrick Gold.
The operation is planned by a multi-national company,
one of whose members is George Bush Senior.
The Chilean Government has approved the project to
start this year, 2006.
The only reason it hasn't started yet is because the
farmers have got a temporary stay of execution.
If they destroy the glaciers, they will not just
destroy the source of specially pure water, but they
will permanently contaminate the 2 rivers so
they will never again be fit for human or animal
consumption because of the use of cyanide and
sulphuric acid in the extraction process.
Every last gramme of gold will go abroad to the
multinational company and not one will be left with
the people whose land it is. They will only
be left with the poisoned water and the resulting
illnesses.
The farmers have been fighting a long time for their
land, but have been forbidden to make a TV appeal by a
ban from the Ministry of the Interior.
Their only hope now of putting brakes on this project
is to get help from international justice.
The world must know what is happening in
Chile . The
only place to start changing the world is from here.
We ask you to circulate this message amongst your
friends in the following way. Please copy this text,
paste it into a new email adding your
signature and send it to everyone in your address
book. Please will the 100th person to receive and sign
the petition send it to noapascualama@yahoo.ca to
be forwarded to the Chilean government.

May 25, 2006

Enron – Shoot the CEOs!

Filed under: Business,Enron,Uncategorized — darrenkelly @ 9:33 pm

So Jeffrey & Ken are going to jail, joining Andrew, Bernie and few others.   While I have no doubt these guys either pushed the envelope a bit, or were down-right crooked, it still smells bad that they will sit and rot while the really outrageous corporate crook – Richard Scrushy of Healthsouth continues to preach on his "made-to-influence-the-jury" tevelanglist show. 

Scrushy "got religion" just in time to use his community program to ensure his jury of peers was full of brainwashed Birmingham automotants sympathetic to his cause.  

I believe in the rule of law, but America has a long way to go when dealing with corporate malfeasance in a consistent way.   The rules are too loosy-goosy and hard to understand, resulting in prosecutorial "Hail Mary's" that depend entirely on getting a jury with enough personal anger to vote in favor of a conviction – regardless of the law.

Until the rules are understandable and consistently applied, I suggest we just randomly shoot 2 or 3 of the Fortune 1000 CEO's each year on Labor Day.   We'd accomplish the same thing we achieve today and save taxpayers the bundle in court room costs.   Plus, we could sell tickets and donate the proceeds to the former Enron 401K stockholders.

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