The line from Shakespeare, "What's past is prologue" has always resonated with me. History does have a funny way of repeating itself and people who can learn from what’s happened before have an advantage over those that don’t. As we celebrate Memorial Day here in the States, I thought I’d use the time to share some useful insights about one of America’s most successful generals and how they relate to sales enablement professionals today.
General George Patton’s unparalleled ability to execute in WWII sometimes gets overshadowed by his colorful (and stupid) public relations. Because of his quick strike abilities, the Axis leaders feared him more than any other Allied general. What made him truly unique, and someone still studied in military academies throughout the world today, was his formula for success. Patton had a voracious appetite for history and believed that humanity already had a master inventory of all of the strategies and tactics for winning a battle. All one had to do was apply that knowledge to a given situation. His success can be summed up by his ability to model, map, and match.
He was able to model the various elements of a particular battle (from tactics, troop movements, level of aggression of his opponent, terrain, initiative, strengths, weather patterns, etc.) to recognize patterns from an engagement of antiquity. Having identified patterns, he was able to associate (or map) the actions of the victorious general to his situation, giving him a powerful competitive advantage -- the trial-and-error wisdom of thousands of successful and failed tactics and strategies of the other generals of the ages. Armed with the best advisor (the collective wisdom of centuries of peers), Patton was able to rapidly and effectively match winning tactics from the past to his specific circumstances.
Today the UK telecoms regulator Ofcom released its anticipated Code of Practice for ISPs to help combat digital piracy (following hot on the heels of the tough Irish anti-piracy strategy). The Code forms part of the provisions of the Digital Economy Act and is a series of best practices for ISPs to follow rather than a new set of regulations. The intention is that copyright infringement will be seriously dented without need for more formal state intervention (such as the reserve powers of the Secretary of State to cut off repeat offenders’ broadband connections). I will be amazed if any statistically significant decrease in copyright infringement happens because of this Code being followed. Simply advising ISPs when and how to notify subscribers who are infringing copyright is not enough.
But I’m not saying that draconian state intervention is inherently necessary. Indeed, the preferred option is for legislation to establish clear limits and consequences but for consumers to be lured away from the illegal sector by compelling cheap and free alternatives. If ISPs and mobile operators are empowered with truly engaging services that give on-demand access to content on the terms consumers want and with most or all of the cost hidden, then file sharing will meet its match.
File sharing (on network and off network) exists because it fills a needs vacuum. A vacuum which neither iTunes nor Spotify sufficiently fill on their own. Subsidized, unlimited MP3 subscriptions would nip file sharing in the bud. Why would a teenager use BitTorrent when they can get the same music at higher quality and with clean meta data and that they can use however they like, all as part of their parents’ ISP bill?
In the past few months, I've regularly posted Data Digests on people's online shopping behavior. However, not every Internet user actually buys products online. Our Technographics® data shows that about 57% of European Internet users and about two-thirds of US online adults have purchased something online in the past three months. Concerns about privacy, delivery, and returns keep the others from making a purchase; women feel more strongly about delivery costs and the need to see (and feel) the product before they buy than men do.
When asked what would motivate them to start purchasing products or services online, lower shipping costs (43%), lower online prices (42%), and the ability to return products easily (27%) top the list. Retailers have to make the cross-channel shopping experience as easy as possible to cater to the needs of those online consumers who do research products but don't purchase them online — yet.
“Curation is the positive flip side of Apple’s locked-down approach, decried as a major, negative development in computing by many observers, present company included. Who would have thought that in 2010, so many people would pay good money for a computer that only runs approved software?
It runs counter to the idea, prized by geeks, that computing equals freedom. If it were Microsoft doing this, we’d all be storming the Gates with torches and pitchforks.”
I don’t think that you have to exercise Apple’s level of control (e.g., not letting developers use third-party tools like Flash, not approving apps that threaten your business model, etc.) to create a compelling, curated experience — an experience in which content and functionality are deliberately restricted to serve a new form factor like a touchscreen tablet or a wearable device.
Today Google announced that it had generated $54 billion worth of economic activity in the US in 2009. The report, which shows state by state economic contribution, bases Google's total value on three factors: 1) Sales driven through AdSense and AdWords; 2) Ad revenue generated for publishers through AdSense; and 3) Google grants. As a research analyst, I'll admit that you can make numbers tell any story you want to, and my gut here is that this report is principally a PR effort to: 1) Communicate some altruism about the Google brand that has been getting some bad press of late; 2) Simplify the complex transformation Google has brought to advertising into a simple, single number; 3) Shift the focus away from questionable strategic decisions that Google has recently made. I wholeheartedly believe that Google has transformed advertising and is almost singularly responsible for the phenomenon of biddable media buying which I think will ultimately replace relationship-facilitated media buys across channels. But I don't believe that Google stimulated $54 billion worth of business. I think what Google did do is provide a new revenue stream to small businesses and site owners, catalyze some new sales, and take a share of commerce and media expenditures that would have happened anyway.
Forget the Football World Cup; summer 2010 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting periods in digital music’s short history. Spotify is preparing to launch in the US (still), Nokia is rolling out multiple new Comes With Music territories, MOG is finding its feet as a premium subscription service and a number of exciting new services are primed for launch. But just as with the World Cup we’ve already got a decent idea of who the finalists are likely to be: Apple and Google. Continuing the World Cup analogy a little, Apple is Argentina, the once great force that have lost their way a little but have arguably the best array of talent and look like they may just be about to have the engine purring like a tiger again. Whereas Google takes the role of Holland: a slick, skillful team who take all before them with their total football but have never won the World Cup. (Football aficionados will have noticed I left out Spain - the 3rd and possibly strongest favourite - but they didn’t quite fit my framework!)
Closed versus open is actually closed versus…er…closed. Google is playing the role of disruptive new entrant and mischievously played upon Apple’s original 1984 marketing, positioning Apple as being the Big Brother now. Google has also played strongly on being open versus Apple’s closed approach. But the bottom line is that Google’s music strategy looks likely to be pretty closed too. The fact that the Android Music Store is designed to work with Android devices means it will be similarly exclusive as the iTunes / iPhone / iPod / iPad ecosystems. The difference is Google is betting on a wide range of partners having a large installed base of customers on its platform so it will ‘feel’ open.
In preparation for our upcoming Customer Experience Forum in New York at the end of June, I’ve been having phone discussions with our speakers and their people. Yesterday Robinette Dixon from Sprint pointed out something I hadn’t quite realized. Two of the companies that are speaking have a lot in common despite the fact that they could hardly be in more different industries.
First there’s Sprint. Dan Hesse took over as CEO of Sprint, which is headquartered in Kansas, in December of 2007. He immediately made customer experience a priority and set out to ingrain customer experience into the company’s culture and processes. You can see evidence of the results in the 15 percentage point rise Sprint made this year in our Customer Experience Index.
Then there’s H&R Block. Our Day Two speaker, Sabrina Wiewel, is Chief Tax Network Officer at that company, which is also based in Kansas. But the bigger coincidence (no, this isn’t a post about Kansas) is that H&R Block also got a new CEO recently: Russ Smyth, who took over in August of 2008. Like Hesse, Smyth made customer experience a priority. Among other changes he literally flipped the corporate org chart upside down to put customers at the top, and re-engineered how the field offices interact with customers.
Eircom, the Irish incumbent telco, has introduced a ‘four strikes and you're out’ anti-piracy policy, making Ireland the first European country to take such measures, beating even France to the punch. Under the provisions of the policy, the Irish Recorded Music Association (Irma) will supply Eircom with IP addresses of thousands of infringers from which the ISP will select just 50 a week and match them against postal addresses. These 50 will then receive notification letters, a phone call, and potentially a browser pop-up. If they are identified a 3rd time, they will have their connection temporarily cut off, and if they are caught a 4th time, they will lose access for an entire year.
When I came back from holiday last week and looked at my mail, I was delighted to see that the most recent issue of Research World (the ESOMAR magazine) had a number of articles on mobile research. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, mobile research has really won me over (see also my report, The Challenges And Opportunities Of Mobile Research for full details). The “anytime, anywhere” aspect of the mobile phone, combined with people's emotional attachment to it, makes it an ideal device for people to share their thoughts and opinions in a research context.
When reading the articles in Research World, however, I feel that the industry is missing out on a great opportunity. The emphasis of the conversation here is on mobile research's methodological challenges, such as sampling, guidelines, and research bias. I agree that there are still some hurdles to overcome with regards to representation, costs, technology, and privacy, but I believe market researchers shouldn't get too caught up in these but should instead embrace mobile phones as a new research channel and look for innovative research approaches.
Hot on the heels of our new blog platform, Forrester has launched an online community for interactive marketers focused on the key business challenges that interactive marketers face every day. The community is a place for interactive marketers to exchange ideas, opinions, and real-world solutions with each other. Forrester analysts will also be part of the community, helping facilitate the discussions and sharing their views.
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