The Future Workplace


Very interesting podcast on the Future of Work from PRI as a follow up to a recent Time Magazine cover story exploring among other things, generational shifts in the needs and demands of labor.

Apparently Alvin Toffler was on the right track as far back as 1971 when in Future Shock he predicted a future workplace not of bureaucracies, but ad-hocracies. Of loose, impermanent associations between highly specialized individual contributors.

When I first read the book, I remember assuming that it would be the corporations that would lead the evolution toward increasingly complex, specialized networks of human resources. It seemed such an efficient, attractive prospect to the managerial mind. I don’t remember imagining that labor would be the catalyst for dissolving hierarchical institutions into interconnected resource networks. What would be in it for them? No retirement, no paid vacation, no management training, no career path.

But it turns out to be the preferred avenue for labor exchange among the young. Gen Ys are less interested in perks like health care and paid vacation and less interested in the long-term security of corporate ladder climbing – all the things corporate bureaucracies have traditionally provided. Looks like tomorrow’s work force will be negotiating mostly for increased flexibility, which smart employers will learn to use to their advantage.

Of course, a networked labor force only works if each individual contributor is strongly accountable. The good news is, lack of accountability has no place to hide in a management-labor relationship that is entirely pure. No perks. Just work.

That we can look forward to a more entrepreneurial workforce willing to take on more risk in ad-hoc relationships with employers is good. That we can look forward to a workforce who assumes personal responsibility by paying for their own health care, vacations and retirement is good. And that, by it’s very nature, this evolved workforce is more accountable – marvelous!

Data: The New Black

the_new_blackThe NYT makes data-driven marketing look like the hottest new trend. The article title, Put Ad on Web. Count Clicks. Revise. puts to mind one of the first pieces of marketing copy I worked on for an optimization SaaS provider several years ago: Test. Adapt. Repeat. or somesuch was our pithy copy describing what we helped marketers to do.

Love the piece’s Wall Street meets Madison Avenue description of the future of data-driven marketing. Perhaps we geeks who get giddy over data will soon have our time in the limelight!

Customer Experience Optimization: Technology + Metrics + Culture

delightful_resultsWhile the Industrial Revolution ushered in the era of the celebration of product, the Digital Revolution now celebrates the consumer.

Because today’s consumers initiate and control the conversation, the sooner marketers shift from a product to a customer experience focus, the sooner they will reap the benefits of adapting properly to the changing marketplace.

More than ever, today’s marketers are increasingly interested in building optimal customer experiences that drive long-term profitable relationships than they are in driving revenue from widget sales. As they should be. In the age of the empowered consumer, marketing optimization is quickly becoming a function of managing the customer experience.

Shifting from product to customer experience marketing indeed seems a daunting task for enterprises with multiple lines of business operating across multiple channels. Exactly how is it done? Where do we begin?

Optimization is an ongoing, iterative discipline that is part technology and part process. It’s important to consider investments in each when making the move to customer experience optimization. Although technologies for optimization are easy to spot, processes are less so. The difference between formalized business processes that remain focused on product marketing and those trained on optimizing the customer experience is evident in two key areas: metrics and culture.

So where should you begin? By making investments in all three—technology, metrics and culture—in order to make the switch from product-centric marketing to customer experience optimization.

There are many forms of marketing optimization technology, including those that focus on multivariate testing, or controlled experimental design and rules management. The term “optimization software”, however, spans a number of applications from web analytics to behavioral targeting to paid search bidding tools.

The market for marketing optimization technology is emerging, fraught with change, overlap, widely differing approaches and sometimes contradiction. Keeping your eye on the fundamental objective of optimization—to ‘make as effective, perfect, or useful as possible’—is a good way to ensure that your optimization technology investments are sound.

Just keep in mind that s focus on controlled testing should provide the backbone for any marketing optimization approach no matter what the technology investments—or constraints.

What you choose to measure is as important as measurement itself. Marketers often take great pains to vet investments in measurement technologies and processes, scrutinizing features and methodologies to ensure that their new metrics capability is top notch. Often, however, the plan for exactly what they will measure is less thoroughly drawn.

How well your business generates and maintains long-term profitable customer relationships depends both on how well you manage each customer interaction as well as the entire experience across media and channels. Both the granular detail and the bird’s eye view matter. Your recent ad campaign might have generated huge lift in site traffic and conversion, but upon further inspection seems to have delivered rather undesirable customers. Order values are down and a high return rate has put a strain on customer service. Your successful ad campaign has in fact reduced profitability, but if you only measure ad clicks, you don’t even see it.

Customer experience optimization means implementing a metrics framework that measures your campaigns and programs by their ability to drive broader business outcomes than just clicks. It requires cooperation from many different functional groups, like IT, operations, and marketing and should include a plan for building communication and understanding between these groups. Because they typically start out with different needs and goals, disparate measurement priorities and data requirements, varying measurement infrastructure and methodologies, a proactive, considered plan for how to consolidate your metrics framework so that it still delivers value to each key stakeholder is critical.

“Optimization is part process, part technology.” “Customer-centricity is a journey not a destination.” “There is no optimization silver bullet.” Common—and quite true—refrains in the marketing optimization marketplace. Each of these statements infers that there is something else going on in the practice of optimization that can’t be addressed with black box solutions.

One of the biggest obstacles marketers face as they endeavor to optimize the full customer experience is organizational culture. Although marketers talk an awful lot about delivering great customer experiences, 75% report they have no single person named responsible for the entire customer experience from end-to-end. Silos exist.

Especially now that customer experiences are woven across multiple media and channels, multiple functional teams are usually involved in making them happen. Without a strong conductor on the bandstand, these teams don’t necessarily operate in concert. The ability shift from a product to a customer focus in your marketing efforts can be much more of a management problem than a technology problem.

Remember that you don’t use paid search advertising to sell widgets, you use it to attract the right types of customers who happen to be online at the moment. Shifting your focus away from the product and even away from the channel itself are key first steps in championing the move toward customer experience optimization in your organization.

And Speaking of Publishing …

imgresCouldn’t agree more with Seth Godin’s latest blog about the future of publishing both online and off. Although we will miss the morning town paper if it goes away entirely, Godin correctly calls our attention to the point that what we’ll really miss is quite a small percentage of it. 98% of the information traditionally packaged by the city paper is better served online anyway—stock quotes, weather, entertainment reviews. And with less felled trees.

Not sure Site entirely agrees with Godin’s statement that “we don’t use this to support that online. Things support themselves.” To our eye, purveyors of good content are still too timid to ask to be paid for it outright, but we’re optimistic that we’ll see a few breakthrough publishers this year that stop wrapping “free content” up in advertising noise and start asking their audience to pay for what they value.

Sustainable Publishing Online – It’s a Good Thing

internet_tacosSurprisingly courageous remarks from Jonah Bloom at Ad Age about where the publisher-advertiser-consumer relationship is going in 2009. Noting that online publishing has outgrown the amount of online advertising that might support it, Bloom thinks publishers need to find new revenue models if they expect to survive. Site has been wondering about publishers relying too much upon ad revenue for a while now and is interested to see if Bloom’s predictions for the coming year pan out. As online marketers, we’d love to see endlessly expanding ad budgets. But as online business people, we’d like to see more creative—and sustainable—online business models that break out

Web 3.0: Show Me the Money

piDespite a sincere enthusiasm for all things Internet, Site can’t help but to have noticed a lot of over-valuation going on.

Site applauds recent news from Silicon Valley that increasingly scrutinizing eyes are being put to Internet-based investments. Most notably, VCs now seem more interested in investing in companies projecting non-ad-based revenue models, citing that Accel’s early investment in Facebook might not be repeated today given the social platform’s challenges with monetization.

Making money online is attractive because it’s extremely efficient and cost-effective if done right—not because it magically happens with when traffic or even market share get large. Potty-mouth notwithstanding, Jeremy Schoemaker makes a nice case for caution when counting your Internet chickens before they are hatched in his 7 Deadly Sins of People Trying to Make Money Online.

Making money online is smart. Making smart money online is even smarter. Cheers to the portfolio managers who see past simple site popularity and look for clean, predictable and short paths to profitability when deciding how to spend investment dollars.

Internet Marketing – Good News, Bad News

yin_jangFirst, the good news. For those who make their living online, an impressive 68% of advertisers plan to increase digital spending over the next 6 months.

Now, the bad news.

Passing the holidays in lovely Tucson, AZ, Site notes that although our beloved desert hideaway of 750,000 citizens has doubled in size in the past 20 years, its town paper, the Arizona Daily Star, has noticeably shrunk. With each passing year, the news recedes and the ad space grows. Site loves the Internet, but still can’t help but morn the waning of a great American tradition–the town paper.

Social Media Makes It To Salt Lake

salt_lakeI’ve always liked Salt Lake City-based Omniture as a company who does it right. When they morphed their tag line from something like “Web Analytics” to “Online Business Optimization,” I applauded their move to a broader definition of value. Like they thought they might actually be around for a while and would like to continue to grow their market and grow their capability set.

While many Internet marketing apps narrowly define themselves in an attempt to capture the coveted “owning of the category”, so they can capture the even more coveted “big dollars on acquisition”, Omniture always appealed to me as one of the lone long-haulers. In this day of ever collapsing cycles of birth, life and extinction in Life in a Web-based Application Service Provider, a business plan that thinks more than eighteen months into the future is a nice refreshment.

Short-term vision is increasingly standard practice to my observation and occurring in the most unexpected places. They say Hillary’s greatest miss-step was not having bothered to think past February 5th. Lately, I’ve been more and more delighted to come across an example of an engine that seems to be motoring along well and looks to have the stuff to keep at it for a while.

The first fiscal year after raising $50mm in an IPO, Omniture posted $8mm on nearly $80mm in revenue. Today, OMTR trades at roughly 4x the IPO price. They’ve added to their product suite intelligently, demonstrating a clear understanding of their customer and what their marketplace values.

Yet even with a more traditional business model that seems to value long-term sustained growth, they still impressively have a finger on the pulse of the Ever-Hungry-for-What’s-Next Internet Marketeer. Of course a broadly defined value proposition conveniently allows them to adopt all kinds of cutting edge angles for demonstrating the value of Omniture. The latest, of course is the social media angle, and true to form, Omniture has picked up on it deftly, claiming to help their customers to “better understand the synergies across their interactions with (customers), measure how (customers) engage with online content and social media such as blogs, videos, RSS feeds and more.”

And although we all know that the metrics and ROI around an investment in social media marketing are still a bit fuzzy, you can always count on Omniture to at least take a stab at it: “With the insight provided by Omniture, (our customers) are able to better ensure the right content is featured, increasing (customer) loyalty and optimizing their ad spend.”