Archive for April, 2011

28th

Hey, I just found another use for Blogging! It’s a productive use of time at 6am during a windstorm power failure when the only thing you have is battery power on the laptop – no internet, no lights, no coffee – can’t decide which is worse?!?!

So I read and shared this article this week. My guess is many of my colleagues in the insurance space will read it, gently cross their arms, lean back in their chairs, and think, “Yep, this is what I’ve been saying all along…and exactly why I haven’t gotten into all that Facebook, Blogs and Social Media stuff. It’s all a fad.”

Yes, we ARE in a bubble. But here’s the thing (and I’ll ask the crowd of readers to Comment their take below):

The article makes a sound analogy with e-Commerce during the ’98-2000 era. There certainly was a bubble and a burst. Dot-com’s were getting huge amounts of money with no revenue model, etc. etc. The crash hit, many of those companies faded out, etc. Don’t need to rehash all that.

But what came out of all that? Solid e-commerce platforms by solid companies. Not sure what the latest numbers are, but billions of dollars are running through the internet as companies put their products on Web sites and buyers buy them. Again, no need to justify and explain all that anymore – common sense and acceptable.

Why did e-commerce outlive the Bubble? I’ll argue the following. What do you think?

Individually – I’ll list three. Please add yours.

IMHO, it really boils down to Fundamental Human Behaviors

e-Commerce efficiencies with time and money – Didn’t people see pretty quickly that they could browse for books and music on Amazon.com faster than they could in the store? Didn’t Google make it incredibly easy to find pretty much anything you want and compare prices, vendors, choices, user ratings, etc.? [And now we have all of that on our smart-phones? And now we have things like Groupon, Web specials, discounts for Fans, check-in savings on FourSquare?]

Sharing – Didn’t people love to tell stories about what happened to them after they bought the products? Give advice to others in similar circumstances? Make recommendations? Comment from the peanut gallery? Be the arm-chair quarterback? Share uses? Rant about injustices? Solve problems? [Back then it was mass emails and Fwd Fwd Fwd, right? Now it’s Facebook and YouTube, etc.]

Helping – Didn’t e-Commerce make it easier for people to help each other? A fundamental behavior? Why do drivers flash their lights at cars approaching a speed trap?

Corporately – I’ll list five. Please add yours.

  1. Industry leadership – Did the early adopters of e-Commerce realize long-term benefits as their systems matured through trial and error before the rest of the pack? When they figured out ways to do things better, faster, cheaper; to become known as an innovator in the industry; to develop ecosystems that snow-plowed the road for the industry, was there value in that?
  2. Competitive advantage – Did companies with better e-Commerce platforms do better in the 2000s than the competition? And how are they positioned today in 2011? What were the difference makers? How about those that did things in-house versus outsourcing to specialists? Pro’s and con’s on that to be sure, but if we limit the thoughts to the legit, real-deal outsourcing companies…
  3. Cost savings – Netnet, now that we’re 10 years down the road and e-Commerce platforms are in place, are cost structure differences yielding gains compared to the 80s and 90? Shopping? Distribution? Inventory management? etc?
  4. Mass marketing – Did e-Commerce realize the potential for companies to immediately get new products out to wide bases of constituents? How about selling overstocks? What else? And now, what about this concept called “Revenue on Demand”?
  5. Personalization – How about letting the consumer design their own product? Colors, features, accessories, timelines, etc.? Of course often for either a fee or for competitive advantage, right?

What are some other advantages of mature e-Commerce platforms?

Interesting side note: As I mentioned previously, I heard an insurance executive last summer say from a podium, “When will e-Commerce realize its potential?” I wanted to stand up and shout, “When you start doin’ it right, buddy.” Funny how that exec about 3 months later was canned. Oh, and 6 months later his Linkedin profile still lists him in the CEO role. Doh! I swear……. (I’ll save him the embarrassment of linking to it.)

So are we in a Social Media bubble? Absolutely. Will it burst? Yep. Then what? To answer the question in the original E-Consultancy blog…

“We’ll get back to reality and figuring out how to do Social Tech right like we shoulda’ been doing in the first place.”

My take? Social Tech is a specialization like anything else? It’s a discipline that must be mastered and kept up with? As to marketing? There’s a host of things that need to be done urgently today? If we don’t keep up, we WILL be left behind – just common sense. How costly will falling behind be? Again, my opinion, that seems to depend on customer switching costs and your competitors. Don’t underestimate the power of consumer ratings and recommendations, the viral nature of the social Web. Don’t be complacent. Change never stops.

What do you think? Good use of an hour to write this post? Any of this make sense? Please comment. Certainly link back to your site, your blog, or other writings. Please share with your network, ask them to comment, and see if we can get some of your thought-leader friends to pipe in.

Bubble or not, the critically important questions seem to be: Are there long-term utilities in Social Technologies? Does Social Tech align with core human behavior? And will early corporate adopters (caveat: who do it Social RIGHT) have long-term competitive advantage?

14th

First, a few notable Crowdsourced sound-bites from Part 1, along with age and work demographics.

  • “A LinkedIn profile that reflected the right kind of credentials and experience would be enough support for me with a personal reference from someone I trusted.” - Boomer, Sales and Management Expert
  • “Expertise is judged more these days on how a person can be found within their industry on the Web.” - Boomer, Insurance executive
  • “The proper use of the social media tools will surely help.” - Boomer, insurance direct marketing exec
  • ” – it’s all about making it easy for folks to find out what you have that’s helpful for them!” - Boomer, Brand Anthropologist
  • “Whether looking for a job, researching opportunities, or other general information gathering, Social is really vital to have in our tool kit.” - Boomer, insurance direct marketing exec
  • “Chris will call Doug because she values Joe’s opinion and no matter what else her Google search shows up the referral is still more powerful.” - Boomer, Marketing & Innovation Expert
  • “If a Google search turns up more (mentions on the company website, published articles, mentions in published articles), that can be a real plus. A really good blog is a plus…” - Boomer, insurance direct marketing exec
  • “Doug gets a better profile and some credibility as described in the story. But he can now be recruited away by another firm. …The question is how do you find the best balance?” - Gen-X, insurance marketing expert
  • “We’ve moved from monologue to dialogue, as low-engagement traditional marketing and sales is overtaken interactive social engagement.” – Boomer, insurance direct marketing exec
  • “Social media can help solve work problems / answer questions by reaching out to larger audiences. Having a larger network can give you valuable insight into what others in the industry are thinking, keep trends top of mind and can assist in new project, service ideas.” - Gen-X, insurance marketing expert
  • “Yet, the image we present online can have a big impact on how we’re preceived professionally.” - Boomer, marketing and management exec

And a nice capper…

  • “The world as we know it is changing. No longer can F100 companies rely on the ole boys network to get things done. People aren’t that loyal anymore, nor do employees stick that long. A social media presence is required. Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs and even Facebook are necessary in today’s world – they should be current and monitored. 5 years from now the players may be different but the concept won’t be. Doug needs to get on board quick or his luck is going to run out.” - Gen-X, insurance agency exec

Interesting … very interesting. This would make for a great panel discussion at a conference.

Part 2

Contrast the Part 1 “Nowhere Man” story with the flip side. The dinner-conversation-referral-Google-search scenario immediately returns a full page of content about “Doug Smith” “E&Y”. Topping the list is Doug’s cutting-edge Blog – a powerful, well-designed and executed micro-site filled with compliant, keyword-rich content that dates back several years; a virtual fountain of information. Of course the content stops short of giving away any ‘secret sauce’, but it has links to a few of Doug’s recent video presentations at conferences, podcast case studies with other “supply chain financial management” veterans, several white papers he’s authored, recent Comments by readers on an interesting twist on “global supply chain financial management”, and direct links to his Twitter feed and mature Linkedin profile, both of which include reinforcing content. Google also shows that Doug is also featured on several other industry Web sites as an RE – joint vidcasts, guest blog posts, etc.

Let’s play out this scenario: Chris clicks through from Doug’s blog to Doug’s twitter feed (this link is actually a Twitter Search on my Profile to make it easy for those without a Twitter profile to get a sneak peak). Chris, again, the E&Y prospect, immediately Follows Doug and adds him to her “supply chain financial management” List. She scans a few of his recent posts, sees that he’s in Kenya on a project, follows a couple of the links to some powerful “supply chain financial management” content Doug found and shared today and yesterday, and then clicks through to Doug’s Linkedin profile (again, my public profile as an example for those unfamiliar).

“OK… Let’s see what we can see… 500+ Connections – solid. 15 Recommendations – hey, there’s Joe from dinner! OK… There’s those tweets again… and a couple headlines from his blog… Hmmm, before E&Y, he was with McKinsey. Wow, we have some people in common… and some shared Groups. Yep, looks like Doug is in Kenya right now. (Look forward to asking him about that.)

“No problem – my issue isn’t urgent. I’ll leave him a voice mail and let him know I see he’s in Kenya, but want to talk when he gets back…. ‘Doug Smith, this is Chris Mann from XYZ. I had dinner with Joe Jones from ABC Company tonight at the QRS Conference. Joe referred to you as the “supply chain financial management” guru. Got a challenge I’d like to run by you. I see you are in Kenya on a project. Please call me at your earliest opportunity. 212-515-1212 Or email Chris.Mann@XYZ.com and we’ll schedule a phone call. Thanks so much. Looking forward to meeting you. Joe spoke highly of you…’”

And this all took Chris about 10-15 minutes depending on how fast she scans and assimilates data.

Little different scenario this time around. Do you see the VERY tactical and practical utilities of that kind of mature online presence? Do you agree with that scenario as I’ve described it? Does that story help connect some dots for you? What would you add? Like it?

How else does a mature online presence as a Recognized Expert help?

Let’s consider a perhaps less-than-obvious situation. How does BRE help you achieve your career goals? What are the long-term implications? Let’s paint a picture of the future and how BRE may be a significant factor in how well you will prosper.

Career Goals

Let’s tweak the dinner conversation slightly. Let’s say Chris Mann is not an E&Y prospect but instead the conference organizer looking for someone to speak at the NEXT conference in six months. How would the same situation play out given the same two sides of the coin? On the one side, Chris the conference organizer finds tons of corroborating content to Joe’s suggestion that she consider Doug as a potential speaker. How strategic would a speaking gig at the next industry conference be, in front of a host of clients and prospects? And perhaps there might be some media outlets in the audience that want to interview Doug for a vidcast on the topic, perhaps an industry blog ‘ecosystem’ looking to add an author? Who knows where all that could lead, but one thing’s for sure: “It’s all good!” But on the other side, if there is no online reputation reinforcing the RE status, it all goes nowhere in a hurry.

Upper Management Change

Or how about this scenario. Consider that Doug’s boss at E&Y retires. Doug doesn’t really want to ‘move up’, and the new guy is a friend of someone on the Board, a young ex-prof from Wharton, someone with a lot of head-knowledge, looks good on paper, wrote a couple books on “supply chain financial management theory”, but in reality is thin on street savvy -  a good choice for the Wall Street reputation, but a poor choice from a client perspective. “But you can help him get up to speed. He’s a good guy, knows a lot of movers and shakers, and together, you’ll both kick butt…” the vice-chair says with a slap on the back.

Well, this could go at least two ways, right? WITHOUT a solid RE reputation, after a couple inevitable missteps by the new guy, Doug could say, “Screw it. I’m throwing my hat in the ring over at __competitor__.” WITHOUT the RE profile, won’t Doug will be a bit hamstrung and eventually either set the new guy up for failure or get chewed up himself, lose his fire, and ultimately derail and fade out? True?

Either way, the company loses a bright (albeit hidden) light, has potential reputation management issues, morale issues, client satisfaction issues, etc. etc. etc.  – not a good scenario for anyone – except the competition of course. But WITH a solid RE profile, the new guy will of necessity have to work with Doug, won’t he? You can’t argue with a guy that has a thought-leading blog, perhaps even a blog that’s its OWN industry ecosystem with tons of engaged readers, 1000+ Linkedin Connections, 25 Recommendations, 1000s of Twitter Followers, etc.. The vice-Chair will say to the NEW GUY, “Step aside, man, and just enable, help DOUG do his thing, bring more prospects to the table, bring ideas, that kind of thing.” Doesn’t everyone WIN in that scenario???

What are your thoughts? Does this make sense? Where are the holes? Is this an accurate depiction of why Becoming a Recognized Expert can be so useful not only in the short term but in the long-term, not only for the professional but for the company?

  • Is retention important?
  • Is thought-leadership important?
  • Is online industry reputation important?
  • Is content generation important?

If so, Part 3 will discuss the practical and tactical steps to facilitate going from “Nowhere Man” to Recognized Expert.

Please share your take. Please don’t lurk – engage. Thanks in advance.

The cat wants in to my office. Not gunna do it! Sorry.

2nd

A classic line from Jurassic Park, right? Jeff Goldblum was stating the obvious very simply yet urgently.

Question: Have you ever been driving down the interstate… in the right lane… at a normal speed of 65mph… just cruising along enjoying the drive… when all of the sudden you come upon someone driving 45, or worse yet, someone stopped in your lane??? What’s your first gut feeling?

Or maybe you’re in a hurry rushing between meetings.. perhaps returning an urgent phone call to your spouse… so you’re pushing it at 75/80mph. Again, all of the sudden you come upon someone driving really slow? What’s your gut feeling then, especially given that you’re in a time of stress?

At the far extreme, have you ever seen someone, usually from Illinois or Michigan :-0, BLOW BY at  85/90/95? Imagine the difference THEN with the guy going 45. Even if you’re going 65, that differential is big – not mention the guy going 45… or the guy why is broken down and stopped.

The interesting paradox: The people driving slow may think they are ‘safe’ but in reality, they are actually in harm’s way.

What’s the point? Does the same concept apply to Social Technologies and companies or industries moving too slow? Is there a correlation there? I think so, but like I always say, sometimes I’m out in left field. I’ve had my share of close-calls with slow or stopped traffic, close enough to know that a crash on the highway is really dangerous. We’ve all driven by them, too. Not only is that kind of accident a high-speed impact, but what happens after the main accident is often even more lethal. Consider the secondary crashes, the side impacts, spinning and crossing the median. Then there’s the rubber-neckers on the other side. Then there’s the bad feelings, anger, long-term back problems, etc. etc. Even if they DON’T wreck, it’s disruptive, isn’t it?

Please Comment below: Isn’t it critically important to, at a bare minimum, keep up with traffic? Well, Social Media Marketing for B2B AND B2C is moving at a fairly good clip right now….

Again, I’m nuts sometimes. Straighten me out.

A few of my friends leading worship at church

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