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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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Employment Branding
(March 09, 2001) A brand is a relationship. Brands only matter to the people who care about them. Mention the brand name outside of the circle of people who have the relationship and you will receive shoulder shrugs. Mention it inside the circle and you can spark a conversation full of passion and opinion. The only brands that matter are the ones that people care about..

The theory and development of branding has been reserved, historically, for companies that could afford large broadcast media campaigns. The best examples of brand marketing are consumer product companies, from automobiles to popular music to varieties of American Cheese. The term brand is used to cover a wide range of circumstances from name recognition to deep affinity.

Recently, the notion of a brand has been extended to cover some surprising things. FastCompany, the periodical manifesto for those who want to change organizations from within, extends the concept as a metaphor for personal marketing. Peppers and Rogers, the authors of popular books on database and relationship marketing, move the concept to tightly grouped members of a database.

It is useful to think about branding as an early stage technology. Purely a 20th Century invention, branding, like many first generation technologies, began in organizations that could afford clumsy and inefficient approaches because of their sheer size. For the past 70 years, branding has been a game of extensive spending to attract large numbers of people to a single product or company.

Today, however, the tools needed to build very clear, very small niche oriented brands are readily available. Like much of marketing, the tools are now available from the desktop. This "downward evolution" of marketing, covered in our earlier work, creates both expanded opportunity and expanded responsibility at the department and operating unit level.

(Excerpt from the 2001 Electronic Recruiting Index)

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Explosion Of Trade Shows

(March 08, 2001) Counting the IQPC conferences, there were over 300 Recruiting tradeshows of various sizes and shapes during 2000. That's nearly one a day. With highflying entrants from Fast Company magazine, a variety of investment banks and the normal industry sleep-a-thons, the rate at which Marketing budgets evaporated was historic.

Generally, the vendors subsidize the shows but get extremely short shrift. One of the many reasons that so many alliances were developed in 2000 was that there was no one else to talk to at the trade shows. Often, the vendor booths were in the next building or some equally out of the way place.

From the customer's perspective, the market is awash in products that are not carefully discriminated from each other. The trade shows, which all have educational components, are seen as a training opportunity, not a purchasing research event. For the most part, customers actively avoid the sea of desperate salespeople who inhabit the trade show floor.

This imbalance between vendor and customer expectations places many of the new Trade Shows at serious risk. Without a clear return on marketing investment, vendors will become increasingly reluctant to subsidize industry education. Trade show owners and operators, who rarely disclose their complete reliance on vendors, will be faced with raising their fees or closing the operations.

Even with more clearly defined expectations, however, the trade shows continue to run a larger risk. The degree to which Electronic Recruiting and Human Capital Management products are indistinct from each other is a serious problem. Without some selectivity, the customer will still be faced with desperate salespeople who are impossible to tell apart.

In other words, Trade Show owners and operators will have to get more deeply involved in defining clear criteria for vendors who are selected for their events.

At the same time, the notoriously cheap HR customer is in for a rude awakening. Vendors do not subsidize industry education for philanthropic reasons. Rapidly rising event ticket prices and a dwindling array of shows will move the cost of education back on to the shoulders of industry.

In general, trade shows make their money by selling tickets, selling booths and sponsorships and by not paying the speakers at the events. In other words, every increment of the trade show experience is driven by a Marketing agenda. The very best way to tell whether a show is worth attending is by asking about the budget for speakers. If speakers are 'volunteering', the show is probably less than it appears to be. Speakers only volunteer when they have something to sell.

In the near term, this disturbing trend portends strong growth for consultancies like the Tiburon Group or R.D. Raab. These firms are willing to help a client all the way through the process of vendor selection and integration while providing training and related services.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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(March 07, 2001) Periodically, we remind our readers to watch
Dave Winer's work. Winer, who runs a software/publishing company called Userland, is systematically ferreting out the possibilities and potentials of the web. It's scary and frustrating work.

Winer operates at the edge of the radar but is closely watched. His flagship newsletter, the Scripting News, is a sometimes focused, sometimes rambling view of the Internet, the software industry and the changes that are happening in society and our organizations.

As we watch companies adjust their communications to account for the web's flattening, we're tickled at the difference between the provocative an the status quo. The following article describes, in cynical detail, Dave's perspective on workflow.

Yesterday I spent a bunch of time talking with Robert Scoble, a conference manager at Fawcette, who's very bright and trying to figure out what's going on here, same as me.

One of the questions that keeps coming up is why (or is) what we're doing at UserLand different from the other content management companies, Vignette, ATG, Interwoven, Broadvision. Clearly it is different, if for no other reason that our software costs much less. But that's just the beginning of the story.

One of the elusive features that others provide that we don't is called "workflow." I wonder why we never implemented it and they did. I wonder why it never showed up on my radar, yet it seems so central to what they do. And then I had an aha. What follows is strong, so don't read it if you can't stand a strong point of view.

The purpose of workflow is to keep content off the web. To provide a sense of security to company management that all the right people have to approve something before anyone outside the company can read it. This can include relatively harmless checks, like making sure that Web standards are respected, or it can make sure that the company's lies are preserved, that no truth leaks out from behind the firewall. If every statement has to get through the legal department, top management, human resources, etc, so the theory goes, our company or organization can't get in trouble.

Now I understand why it's not in our software. Our job is to make it *easy* for people to get their ideas on to the Web, not hard. If you have layers of editors in your way, I know that this starts warping your personality, to the point where the work becomes tedious even demoralizing. I said a few weeks ago (on Scripting News, my weblog) that the Web these guys are writing for is not the same Web I write for, the one I write for depends on people's judgment and recognizes that companies are made up of people, and sometimes people make mistakes. That's preferable, imho, to a story that either never gets told or is told untruthfully.

Last week one of my people said something to someone outside the company that made me cringe. I explained to him carefully why I don't want us to say things that way. It could be big trouble. But I didn't put a gag on him. I know he cares, and I know he does good work, and that's one of the risks you take by giving your people a voice.

I remember when Brent Simmons launched his weblog, after much prodding from me. I freaked out. "Now I'm not the only public voice of my company on the Web." But I had a little talk with myself "Dave, you *wanted* him to do this," I said. The initial shock is long gone, and now I can't imagine a Web without Brent. He's a fantastic teacher, a great writer, as long as he wants to write publicly, I want to read it, and I want everyone who wants to to be able to.

So the bottom-line is that we are different because our natural customers are the people inside an organization, and the content management products are sold to management. Our purpose is to flow stuff out to the Web, and honestly, from my point of view, the other guys' purpose is to *not* flow stuff out to the Web. There's more money in their business, because the management has more money, but there's more Web in our business.

Over and over I learn that the barriers we erected in the past that define workplaces don't work when the Web comes into the equation. We're not the only ones. You can route around content firewalls by starting an eGroup and inviting all interested people outside your company to participate. Instant messaging and email are also route-arounds.

So workflow is an illusion, like those silly non-disclosure agreements that firewalls attach to the end of outgoing (public) emails. The Web is revolutionary, it's hard to sell security with integrity when there's a revolution (still) going on.

Dave Winer

(c) Copyright 1994-2001, Dave Winer. http://davenet.userland.com/.
"It's even worse than it appears."

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Search For A Business Model Goes On (Trend 9)

(March 6, 2001) For all of the talk, a business model is a simple thing: sell enough of your product or service to exceed expenses. Although common sense suggests that this is a straightforward process, large numbers of Internet businesses were started without an operating business model. The idea, driven by high volumes of speculative investment, was that building an Internet business might disclose radical new forms of commerce.

So far, the Electronic Recruiting Industry has not delivered on this promise. Current "business models" are simple modest derivatives of traditional forms of employment advertising and research. Job Boards and Resume Databases, the predominant fixture in the industry, are little better than automated versions of yesterday's tools. After all, the Job Board is not a significant innovation beyond automated databases in Unemployment Offices from years gone by. As a replacement for traditional newspaper employment advertising, the new forms offer little in the way of really exciting improvement.

The best way to think about the continued search for new business models is as a split issue. Companies willing to publicly admit their quest for a business model are risky vendors and should be avoided. Their continued survival is a matter of speculation.

On the other hand, the evolution of real technology is often slower than the patience of speculators. As investment flows into the Electronic Recruiting Industry, the pressure will be to keep pricing at today's artificially low points. Companies that search for new business models often provide high value at an extraordinary discount. They are spending investor's money to buy market share or flesh out their experiment. As long as these players maintain some level of visibility, services provided to customers of the industry will be significant values.

Over time, the search for real results for real customers will produce new technologies and approaches that make "transformation" a reality. Solid capital investment in sound ideas will be a necessary component of that evolution. Until the focus shifts to "real solutions for real customers", however, the slow account growth that plagues some companies will continue.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

The Use Of "Communities" Expands (Trend 21)

(March 5, 2001) After all of the hype associated with the emergence of the World Wide Web, the winner of the most often overused term is clearly "Community". Everything from Adult oriented chat on AOL to commodities exchanges has been referred to as a "community". While overuse has obscured the value of the word, no suitable substitute has emerged to describe the kinds of communications and relationships that, impossible before the web, have come to dominate certain corridors of eCommerce.

In Electronic Recruiting, the high water mark is held by a cranky little operation called Craig's List. The firm combines housing, roommate referral, general discussion, items for sale, a modest political orientation and general San Francisco demeanor into a hub for a certain, thin slice demographic. Often showcased as "the" example of how to run a community based job-advertising business, the little company has begun to believe its own press and is attempting to "go national".

Other examples include an unmentionably- named source of intrigue in the dot com world (Fu***dcompany.com), the Vault and Wet Feet. These companies make their livings by providing a variety of types of insider's looks into a company. (It's useful to understand that negative PR is a fact of life in today's world of broadly distributed desktop publishing.)

The real benchmark for community based Recruiting is stills the Well. The Well, now owned by Salon Magazine remains the archetype of online community. In order to recruit effectively among the glitterati that inhabit this discussion board, one must be a functioning member of the community with contributions to make beyond pragmatic business needs.

Developers.net, a quiet but influential technical job board, hosts the job offerings at Slashdot, the single most influential industry "community". By delivering jobs directly into this highly credible but eclectic mix, Developers.net allows an advertiser to get even closer to the end target demographic.

The reason that community based recruiting (Internet Doublespeak for micro niche demographic targeting) is catching fire is that the discipline, in the final analysis, is all about precision targeting. Communities provide a great way to learn the basics.

- 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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