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It is better
to not be on
the web than
to be on and
not know why

John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall

It's better to
do a few things
really well than
than to do
a lot of things
If you can't
make the necessary
commitments of
time and energy
to your
scale back
your plan.
John Sumser

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When In Doubt, Slice The Language
(March 2, 2001) Another Chief Officer slot is popping up. Given the recent spate of privacy bugaboos on the web, small Silicon Valley oriented companies are appointing "Chief Privacy Officers" (CPOs). We're from an era in which a CPO was a high ranking naval enlisted man, famous for his coat.

The CPO's job, it turns out, is to be the single belly button at the intersection of competing views from the legal, consumer and technical universes. With the heat of public scrutiny comes the requirement to field a "stuckee". While there is plenty of existing law, the ability to track online behavior certainly raises new issues. Lots of third party players are emerging to try to sort out the details.

We hold, as you'd suspect, a somewhat contrarian view.

It's clear to us that privacy is directly related to fit. The more you know about a customer (or candidate) the more likely you are to be able to create a match between that person and a range of needs. By necessity, additional understanding comes at the expense of a layer of mystery.

We're often reminded of our first experiences with a tailor.

Following one very large promotion, we were instructed to use the "company tailor". After a decade of wearing rack suits, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that company executives all wore handmade suits from a specific company. We were surprised at the way that a tailor worked.

After an initial greeting, the tailor asked us to disrobe. He immediately got on his knees and placed his hands in any number of unmentionable places. Measurements were taken and an odd array of physical facts (that we didn't even know) rose to the surface. One shoulder is lower than the other; one thigh larger than its twin; the padding on one side sags a wee bit more than the other (we can't even see back there); and so on.

Humiliation and discomfort aside, the result of this deep physical investigation was an astonishing fit. We have fond memories of that first suit and the way it looked and felt. Fit was achieved at the expense of privacy.

And so it is with information.

We trusted our tailor to never mention our infirmities; but, he knew them, understood them and accounted for them. His job was to make the fit work based on a deep intrusive understanding.

We're guessing that the real dynamic surrounding the current privacy noise is related to the fact that the current crop of internet information tailors are all apprentices. There are time honored ways for respectfully using closely held information to produce high quality results. Perhaps the job of the CPO is to make organizations learn how to carry this trust.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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(March 01, 2001) It's terribly easy to judge a company based on the quality of its website. For instance, when we look at the Applicant Tracking Systems Market, only two of the sites are even worth bothering with. The
Recruitsoft offering stands head and shoulders above all of the others and goes a long way towards explaining why they have managed to grab so much buzz recently. Of the huge piles of other brochureware, on Webhire's material even vaguely climbs out of the background noise. In both cases, what distinguishes these sites is the fact that they offer real meat, not flashy graphics. In case you've forgotten. the most successful website (more or less) is Yahoo's ugly monster. We think anyone claiming to be an internet business ought to be able to field a passable website.

Okay, we're suckers for the idea that the web can bring real people closer to each other. Our experience is that the web helps us get to know our surrounding neighborhood a little better. It's counter intuitive, but somehow, asynchronous digital communications make it easier to shop in the local market.

The way it seems to work is that community forms around content. In English, that means that people need something to talk about when they get together. Affinity plus content (the more controversial the better) plus a good location equals a party. Groups formed around shared ideas and social interactions (face to face plus internet) have stronger than usual 'stickiness'.

So, it was with a great deal of enthusiasm that we visited the Media Bistro party in San Francisco. Sure enough, swirling under heatlamps in the cold (high 50s) late Bay Area winter, were all sorts of interesting folks brought together to incite each other. Media types, futurists, web heads, young, old all nosed around to get to know each other and figure out the mid level professional job scene.

With operations popping up all over the country, the Media Bistro management team is way ahead of other operations that hope to build regional franchises around the country. The have figured out how to throw an intimate, successful, recruiter friendly party for just the right people and integrate it with their web operation. It was a great experience.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

It's a Song

(February 28, 2001) We love our greenhouse. The facility is designed to accommodate our clients throughout the life-cycle of the relationship. It works well for the wild gyrations of strategic development. The planning tools and workspace design provide a solid balance in functionality. Lately, we've been seeing a few vendors over a dinner in the evening.

Last week, Tom Marsh, the marketing genius behind BrassRing Systems' rapid rise, stopped in for a meal to tell us about the latest release of their product (Version 3.8). Complete with scheduling and communications upgrades (an Outlook integration), the new release adds functionality and fixes the bugs we've been hearing about.

Like all of the guests we really fawn over, Tom brought the gift of an interesting idea (he called it a 'thought meteor').

After following our discontent with the term 'advertising' and our constant search for a new core metaphor for the industry, Tom's suggestion was simple and interesting. He'd noticed that we are increasingly worried about systems (and failing business models) that get in the way of the core communications that form the transactions of our world. He said "What if Recruiting is like a song?"

"I've always been amazed by the relationship between a musician and her audience. Somehow, particularly in popular music, a bond between performer and audience forms. The singer sings, the audience member hears and emotions-ideas are communicated. A good song well sung stays in the head of the listener."

As you might imagine, we got off on a long digression about finding the right audience, segmenting so that the wrong song doesn't offend the wrong audience and other technical details. But, at the heart of the discussion, we were impressed. Recruiting is a form of musical conversation between the singer of the right song and the listener.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


(February 27, 2001) What constitutes an effective job ad? Given the large number of variables that can be screwed up (content, distribution, audience, targeting, media type and timing, to mention a few), the question is a critical component of Online Recruiting. We think the answer begins with a critical piece of insight:

The meaning of your communication is the results you get.

Surprisingly, people go to work each day and function adequately without understanding this basic communications principle. When trying to deliver a message, what matters is what is received and acted on, not what was intended. The best way to evaluate your communications effectiveness is by looking at the results. There is no magic, just clear definitions of desired outcomes, audience assessment, message construction and appropriate delivery.

The reason we dwell so intensely on the importance of small audiences is that it is easier to communicate effectively when the audience is clearly defined than when it is a vague concept. A clear message delivered to the wrong audience gets the wrong results. In the web environment, wrong results can range from no responses to a huge pile of the wrong ones. Ineffective communications to the wrong audience results in increased costs and schedule delays.

Being clear about what you want (the place for planning in job ad development) precedes and follows audience definition. "We need three Unix engineers", a seemingly simple requirement, opens the questions of audience location and sophistication. Once the audience is understood (are there any available and where), the message can be refined to include adequate descriptions of sub-skill level requirements, possible salary ranges and the necessity of relocation expenses.

We don't want to underestimate the hard work involved in being clear about either task. Clarity about the requirements (discerning between real needs and 'nice to haves') is no small chore. Quite often, the core recruiting dilemma is an inability to clarify the basic need. It may be the case that audience definition is really a central component of being clear about the requirements for the job. Using an iterative process that simultaneously clarifies both issues is a standard part of the marketing toolkit.

Let us suggest a simple experiment:

The next time you have to fill a position that will pay relocation costs, begin by collecting the zip codes of the other people in the same department or function. Visit the Claritas website and look up each zip code using the PRISM Zip Code Lookup Tool and look up each of the zip codes.

Find the zip codes of the cities suggested by the PRISM exercise and advertise for the position using the targeted advertising on Salary.com (their position descriptions may help you refine the requirements.)

This simple experiment should show you the basics of an iterative approach to defining the target audience and position simultaneously. The results will surprise you.

The understanding you will gain from this simple experiment are the foundations of longer term audience development.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


(February 26, 2001) Already, the vultures are circling to chew the meat off the bones of Isearch. With 150 corporate customers on 30 days termination notice, there is a huge scramble by customers and vendors alike for the opportunities created by the first major financial failure in the business. In the planning functions, managers are gleefully adding another 30% to this year's growth forecasts. Meanwhile, customer service and product line stability are under incredible pressure.

Late last fall, Webhire quietly left the job wrapping business (the old Junglee operation) giving their customers two weeks' notice. Given their struggle to stay listed on the NASDAQ, we're certainly unconvinced that their future is permanent.

Webhire is hardly the only offender. The industry is plagued with companies who over promise and under deliver.

Not surprisingly, new functions, gee-whiz add ons, sourcing innovations and other marketing hype will take a solid back seat to securing customer interests and guaranteeing the stability of the vendor.

What is the first question people will be asking vendors at this year's trade shows?

May I see your financials, please?

What is the question that will be asked of all so called "ASP" vendors?

Are you willing to let me have a copy of the source code?

And the third most frequently asked question?

How can you guarantee that you will be in business two years from now and what are your plans to support your customers if you fail?

The fourth?

Given that 90% of all acquisitions fail, are you for sale? Are you willing to put that in writing?

It will be a different world this year as the direct result of the crisis caused by this failure. Customers should realize that they have a large stake in the success of their vendors. Vendors need to quickly come up to speed on the fact that this year, customers will want stability.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

© 2013 interbiznet.
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Materials written
by John Sumser
© TwoColorHat.
All Rights Reserved.

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