Oh Lordy, Guess Who’s …

Sooooo … you know the saying that “time passes by” … it has indeed!

I’ve had a very busy year and a half with ForeSee focused on discussing the impact of customer, candidate, and patient experience on revenue for clients and future clients ranging in size from several Fortune 50 companies to recently monetized internet start ups.  So busy in fact that I’ve neglected my blog for quite some time.

That is changing effective immediately … as soon as I celebrate a little “time passing by” event called … my 40th birthday this weekend.  :)

 


To MBA or Not To MBA – The ROI Question

This week a new client asked me why I had decided to pursue an MBA.  Specifically, what was the ROI for me? What an interesting question!  I’ve been so wrapped up for the past few years in work / school and just plain being in “busy” mode that I didn’t have a quick response … and that got me thinking …

Three years ago I decided to return to academia via graduate school and pursue an MBA.  I had been kicking around the idea of returning to school for several years and quite simply could not decide on whether or not an advanced degree would be beneficial.  Would the considerable investment of money and time have a return?

And therein was the faulty logic.

Earning an MBA has zero ROI.  There is no immediate return on the investment of time and money from a graduate degree. Sure, there is intangible achievement or return as your knowledge base and day to day application of Finance, Marketing, Operations, and Strategy increases.  But, intangibles are difficult to quantify and thus the difficulty in answering the ROI question and quite frankly, the lack thereof, of a firm Return On Investment to respond to the question at hand.

I learned about a financial return quantification method called EVA in Finance that may provide the best response.  EVA or Economic Value Added is a robust financial measurement approach that companies use to evaluate their economic profit – the value created in excess of the required return of the company’s shareholders.  The concept hinges on the fact that a company’s shareholders gain when the return from the capital (or investment) employed is greater than the cost of that capital.  In essence, EVA is the profit that is earned minus the cost of financing the firm’s capital.  Capital (or YOUR money) doesn’t just sit around doing nothing.  Companies spend or invest just as you and I do … although they may invest in R&D while you or I choose to go on a vacation, buy a pair of sunglasses, etc. An EVA analysis of pursuing an MBA is a better quantification as it accounts for the value of the investment rather than the return.

For me, the decision to invest time and money in an MBA hinged on the fact that the opportunity cost of NOT pursuing an MBA far exceeded the initial time and money outlay.  The economic value add of an advanced degree lays within the opportunities that become available – whether a new career path, skills to start a business, etc.   The EVA will continue to multiply throughout my life as I put the new skill set to work … the impact or intensity of the returns (whether financial or not) on my life is dependent on me taking actions based on the investment of time and money.

So, when asked about ROI … while the path to an MBA has been completed the journey has just begun … and the EVA will continue to exceed the opportunity cost for not investing in myself or my future.

P.S. Thank You to the University of St. Thomas  in Minneapolis, MN for a rewarding and AACSB Accredited learning experience.  Make sure to check out the UST MBA Program here: http://www.stthomas.edu/business/degrees/ustmba/eveningmba/


Real World Social Media – The Power of Networking

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

I’ve spent the past 2 years and 9 months working diligently on an AACSB accredited MBA at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, MN.  The university requires successful completion of 17 classes, 2,200 hours of class time and a LOT of group projects of their MBA candidates – whether you attend full or part-time.  My decision to attend St. Thomas was made for a variety of reasons (including their AACSB accreditation) but as I look back on the past 3 years or so – one criterion stands above the rest … the people.

The power of social media has enamored both marketing and sales organizations over the past few years.  In fact, when I began my MBA coursework, Facebook was still a “college” thing rather than the behemoth it is today.  Twitter was called Twttr. And the iPad didn’t exist.

Social media’s influence and impact continues to grow and to be debated but will surely be with us in the near term.  However, we must not forget the power of being social in the real world.

The true power of social networking exists in real life as it has for generations.  The ability to hold a conversation, to emote, to share and to laugh (without the use of LOL or emoticons) will quickly become a lost art form if we forget the most important aspect of our day-to-day the lives … the people we interact with, cherish, work with, or even dislike. No amount of Facebook likes or posts, Twitter Feeds, Apps, Texts, etc. can replace real world communication and networking.  They can enhance or compliment the experience as any technological innovation should do.

While I’ve learned a great deal about marketing, statistics, decision-making, strategy, and yes, even social media during my pursuit of an MBA … as I reflect on my experiences it becomes readily apparent that no amount of technology or innovation replaces the fundamental power of being social – IRL.

(that’s Twitspeak or SMS for In Real Life)


Marketing Technology: Cloud Computing Definitions – SaaS – PaaS – IaaS

Cloud computing stack showing infrastructure, ...

Image via Wikipedia

Marketing isn’t just about branding, creative, etc. – marketing accounts for the rise in global technology usage and stands poised to embrace the “Cloud”.  The Cloud is a virtual environment that precludes the purchase of servers and other technology components to deploy websites, social media sites, etc.  Amazon, Rackspace, Microsoft and Google have offerings in this space and there are three acronyms that marketers need to understand when deploying future marketing strategies – no matter which vendor you utilize.  The three most typical deployment models are:

SaaS – Software As A Service.  Pronounced “SASS”.  Simplest deployment method which allows software to be tapped from a cloud computing resource rather than relying on software installations and implementations.

PaaS – Platform As A Service.  Pronounced “PASS”.  Intermediate deployment that steps away from simply renting applications from the cloud by leveraging the cloud as an operating system (platform).  This also eliminates expensive network upkeep as most service providers provide routine maintenance and upgrades as a part of their SLA (service level offering).

IaaS – infrastructure As A Service.  Pronounced “I-AS”.  The holy grail of cloud computing! You access / rent everything from the cloud … this means servers, storage space, routers, and other hardware, networking capabilities, operating systems, and applications.  This allows for the ultimate degree of scaling as your projects (and customers) dictate.


Android Phones Pass iPhone in 2010 Unit Sales

According to Gartner Research, as of February 2011, Android has surpassed iOS in unit sales. Their research also indicates that Nokia’s Symbian maintains market leader status although the combined Android and iOS sales momentum in 2010 should have them worried about that status in 2011.

This is very important information to a marketer … at an aggregate level it would appear that marketers should continue to embrace iOS but need to ensure that they have a presence or app available for Android as well.  The press that the iPhone commands is misleading to marketers!  If your app is not available to Android (or Symbian) users then you are not engaging 67 Million folks (or 111 Million).  Scary, huh? And don’t get me started on organizations that are optimizing mobile sites for iOS with no thought or regard to Android … (note: I have both an iPhone and an Android based phone).

While the iPhone and iOS are “sexy” and hot topics … it is possible that the closed environment or ecosystem combined with limited distribution of Apple products may once again prove a challenge to Apple’s market dominance.  It wasn’t that long ago that Apple PC’s enjoyed a lion’s share of the market but limited distribution, closed environments, and high prices enabled Microsoft to quietly eclipse Apple as a market owner in less than 5 years.  This would explain the introduction of the iPhone to Verizon users this month – someone at Apple finally realized that they had limited access to the smartphone market with AT&T while Android based phones are offered by every carrier.

The lesson?  Organizations need to ensure that their mobile marketing presence is not limited to the Apple ecosystem.  The aggregate data and market research confirms that the iOS market share represents a minority of overall market opportunity.  Marketers who are partial to the iOS platform (and Apple) should be worried about the rapid increase in Android unit sales this past year … check it out for yourself in this killer video that shows the slow build of momentum since 2008 of the Android platform based on global Android activations from 2008 – 2011.  Pay particular attention to how quickly the platform base growth accelerates in 2010 and early 2011:



Pre-game Super Bowl XLV Ads and Brand Strategy

I’m looking forward to the Super Bowl advertising spots this year – we should see a true blend of old and new advertising / marketing strategies at play with traditional video and TV spots leveraging brand presence on Facebook, Twitter, and most importantly …  YouTube.  Major kudos to Volkswagen with their efforts thus far – a “pre-release” or sneak peak at their spot has generated more than 12 Millions views on YouTube, 50,000 Tweets, and over 140,000 Facebook shares … and get this … over 5,000 mentions on Google Buzz (I didn’t think they had that many users?!).  YouTube may be the hands down winner in all of this as consumers hit the site to re-play not only scenes from the game but their favorite advertising spots as well.  If a brand positions these marketing assets properly, there is a significant opportunity to build brand equity and drive revenue growth.  In my opinion,  the spots should direct consumers to YouTube to re-play the ads (maybe via a promotional enticement upon viewing?!) with an opportunity for customers to engage with the brand further via social media (think Facebook likes and follows) with the ultimate goal of driving a desired behavior (e-mail subscribe, purchase, etc.) by re-directing new Facebook and Twitter followers to the brand’s consumer web site.

Volkswagen Super Bowl XLV Ad:  The Force


Short Term vs. Long Term – MySpace and Facebook

MySpace laid off almost half of its staff this week and is reportedly for sale amid reports of continuing subscriber loss to Facebook.  MySpace was the social networking site when Facebook reserved its membership ranks to attendees of Ivy League schools.  It was the first site that anyone could log into and create their personal “space” on the web including photos, music, mini-blogs and more.

It took MySpace less than 5 years to become a star and fall from grace in the markets while Facebook accelerated at a pace that now eclipses that of Google.  What happened?  Well … it’s a case of trying to be everything to everyone and the master of nothing.  It spread itself to thin and lost its way.  Facebook has always been straight forward – you get what you get.  Sure, they introduce new products here and there but it’s a “one size fits all” model no matter if you’re a celebrity, student, housewife, or just a regular joe.

The lesson?  Decide who and what you are and stick to your guns.  An ever changing business model that reacts to short term guidance or market pressures ultimately leads to failure.  We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again – history always repeats itself.

When MySpace was sold to News Corp. it forced itself into the world of short term thinking where quarterly revenue was king.  The pressures to top quarterly analyst forecasts eclipsed a strategic vision that was responsible for its rise in popularity and ultimately led to an ever changing and increasingly complicated social media landscape and mission statement that turned off its core user base.  These users flocked to the simplicity that is Facebook (at least from a UI perspective) and the rest as they say is history.

Maybe Zuckerberg had it right by resisting the pressures for an IPO over the years and keeping Facebook private?  It has meant he can deliver on his strategic vision from a long term perspective rather than a reactionary stance every quarter like most public entities.  You tell me … MySpace is the 49th most visited site globally according to Alexa.com.  That’s nothing to sniff at unless you’re competing against the likes of other social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and a slew of others that rank higher for visitor count.  They’re all competing in the same space.  Pun intended.


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