Category Archives: Marketing

Future Jobs

This is a tough topic to tackle without sounding too trite or stale. But I now have children entering the job market and I have been continuing to do some networking with several people who are in a job search mode so it is on my mind. As usual I got to thinking about where to go and how to position for the jobs of the future. With the continual drive for cost reductions and all the talk about bringing certain jobs back on shore (as others continue to go off-shore), is there truly a way to future proof what you do for a living? I don’t know for sure, but as usual I do have a few thoughts on the topic.

It must be acknowledged and accepted that the rules of the game are changing. We must adapt or it probably will not end well. There will be those who will stubbornly hold out the hope for a return to the days when this country could manufacture and build its own products, and people could earn a living doing it. This was an ideal and golden time, but as we have all seen, there may be scattered exceptions, but by and large that economic structure has gone.

I think this was only the start. Almost every role that can be defined within an organization, can be subject to the same risk of off-shoring, out-sourcing, or whatever description you may choose to use for being moved to a cheaper labor oriented area. Production was moved off-shore because the labor was cheaper. The quality may not have been as good initially, but that can be and for the most part has been rectified. We all wanted the cheapest products possible, because they were good for the bottom line.

We have already seen instances where financial and accounting functions are being out-sourced and off-shored in the name of reducing costs. These are largely looked at as internal functions. They are usually associated with the overhead costs and functions, and as we know, everyone wants to reduce overhead. There are many people across the globe who are trained in the financial and accounting disciplines that perform these functions cheaper than they can be performed here.

We have already seen many instances where Research and Development, what was once a cornerstone of our growth engine, have been moved off-shore to lower cost countries. It seems that there are also many places with smart people who can write code and create products, with many of them working for significantly lower costs than here.

We have also seen the relocation and / or reduction of some of the Human Resource functions to other locations. Many of the repetitive steps associated with the simple recruiting and support functions can be and have been moved to lower cost countries. There has also been an explosive growth in the utilization of self-help and web portals as replacements for actual people.

Service and support is also similarly questionable. It is possible that this trend specifically associated with service may be reversing, but it is still highly probable that when you call for help or support on many products, your call is directed to an off-shore, low cost call center somewhere else in the world. People who predominantly talk on the phone as a function of their job, can have a phone to talk on in just about any low-cost country.

So, against this type of cost cutting and low cost country focus, what do we do for a living going forward?

I think for starters focus on one word: Customers.

The majority of business functions and disciplines that are at risk in being moved to low cost countries do not interface with customers.

Yes, I know that call centers and service have moved off shore and they deal with customers. And again, by and large customers don’t like it. It has been surveyed and noted as a major customer dissatisfier when it comes to support from vendors. And if given a choice almost every customer would prefer to deal with someone in their own time zone and their own country when it comes to support.

As I said, companies are recognizing what their customers want and this trend may be slowing, if not reversing as some of these service related positions return on-shore.

One of the inviolate axioms of business to business commerce is that “People buy from People”. It used to be the same for business to consumer commerce, but the internet seems to be changing that for commodity type transactions. I’ll get to that part a little bit later.

Selling will always be a function that requires direct customer interface. It will also invariably require face to face exchanges between the seller and the customer. In short, it cannot be off-shored easily, if at all.

As we continue to evolve to a service oriented economy, and as products continue to become more and more complex as well as more commoditized and interchangeable, having people who have the ability communicate specific value propositions, and more importantly be able to sell those value propositions in the new economy will be at a premium.

On the reverse side of the selling to customers, will be the implementation of the complex products and services that have been sold. It doesn’t matter if it is a good or service that has been sold. This brings us to the operations team. The reality is that most customers will not accept a “Do It Yourself” approach to the implementation of the good or service that they have purchased. They are usually going to want the company that sells it, to also be the one that puts it in.

Again, the direct customer interface from the operations team on the implementation of the customer’s purchase will be a key to that customer’s satisfaction, and potential future purchases. It can’t be off-shored and it can’t be minimized in its importance. The best product in the world can be sold, but if it is not implemented well, the customer will not be satisfied. This will be the case with both product and service implementations. Having good customer interfacing operations teams will also be a non-negotiable requirement for the future.

I have looked at specific individual customer interfacing roles up to this point, but what about broader multiple customer roles, such as Marketing?

For the most part in the past I have considered marketing an overhead function with a two-drink minimum. This is said with just a little tongue in cheek. However, if we note that individual customer interfaces are important then it is not too far a leap to expect that individual markets are important as well. Even though there is much written about the “global” economy, I don’t think that goods and services can be positioned and marketed the same way in Canada as they are in Brazil.

No one in Brazil will know what a Tuque is, and I have met very few in Canada who understand the importance of a good Caipirinha. Expecting one marketing approach to work in both regions will probably not be a good recipe for success. I do not think there will be a good or reasonable substitute for local market knowledge, cultural awareness, presence and positioning.

I suppose that the same could be said about lawyers and the specific legal requirements of each market. However, the less said about lawyers, the happier I find myself to be.

So where does that leave the organizational and business jobs of the future?

I think that it will be those outward facing, and customer interfacing roles that will be the jobs of the future. I don’t believe that customers will stand for the out-sourcing and off-shoring of them. It is the personal relationships and the trust that is built by direct customer interface that is the basis of a successful business relationship. There may come a time where that changes, but that may be in the “next” generation of business.

That means that the internal facing business and organizational roles are at risk as a function the eternal drive for lower costs. Accounting, Finance, HR (some of the functions), Research and Development and Production / Manufacturing, all to one level of success or another can be and have been sent to lower cost countries.

What is also interesting to me is that historically a little more than forty percent of CEOs that are hired come out of the finance discipline. In good times this number percentage goes down as growth is a focus and in tougher times it goes up as the bottom line takes on even greater importance. Many others come from the accounting and engineering functions as well. My point is, as many of these internal accounting, finance and engineering functions get out-sourced, where will the future leaders come from?

If these entry level (and other) types of roles and positions are sent elsewhere, where will the future leaders get their starts. It is in these roles that we learn and gain experience. If the roles aren’t there to provide the experience and jumping off points, are companies also off-shoring the development structures that the future leaders have used to get started?

This could mean that in due time, future leaders would predominantly come from those countries that the jobs were off-shored to.

Trade Shows

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to address the topic of trade shows. It must have something to do with the number of them that I have attended and the somewhat painful (read “aching”) memories they engender.  I can remember my then excitement at being assigned to attend my first trade show and to man my specific technology aspect of the corporate tradeshow booth. It has been many years, and many many trade shows since that first trade show. For whatever reasons I don’t seem to go to them nearly as often anymore, but that won’t stop me from discussing their usefulness to both the displaying company and attending individuals.

Trade shows are really expensive undertakings for businesses. There are registration fees, and floor space rental fees (usually by the square foot), and then there are the costs associated with the creation of the booth or display. If there are live products or demonstrations in the booth there is the cost of that equipment that must be added to the bill. There are the communications and connectivity requirements and costs. There is also the travel and living costs associated with the people who will man the booth as well as the salaries that they are paid while at the show. Finally there is an opportunity cost of what other things you could have been doing with all the money and people that were applied toward attending the trade show.

When you add it all up, like I said it gets very expensive. If you are going to spend that kind of money and commit those kinds of resources, one would expect that there would be a significant return on those investments.

At first I thought attending a trade show as an exhibitor was going to be an interesting business experience. Then I attended one. When I was contemplating the prospect of attending the show I had forgotten that I was going to have to stand on a concrete floor for eight to ten hours a day without the ability to sit down, dealing with the people who came into our booth, who may or may not have been customers or potential customers, or who may or may not have been competitors looking for information, and all the time look like I was enjoying myself.  This may be possible for the first day. It is very improbable to do for the entire second day. And darn near impossible to do for almost any part of the third or any subsequent days thereafter.

Then once the exhibit hall is closed for the night you would think that would be the opportunity to rest and recover for the next day’s ten hour booth march. That would be wrong. In most instances there was a corporate hospitality suite that you were expected to spend time in and be available for questions and inputs from executives or the sales team when they actually had a real customer available that wanted to discuss your product. This too could go on for quite a while, but at least there was usually a chair available where you could sit down from time to time. There was also usually food and drinks available, but like when your parents threw a party when you were a kid, it was supposed to be for the guests.

After you had done your time at the hospitality suite, and the crowds had begun to thin out, you could then go back to your hotel room. If you were lucky it was at the same location as the exhibit hall or hospitality suite. More than likely you had to go to another more distant location. You could then look forward to doing it all over again the next day. It was not quite as glamorous as I had initially thought it would be.

In looking at the relative value to the business of attending a trade show, it usually came down to what kind of a show it actually was. If it was an industry forum or association that was sponsoring the show, then the value was basically that of being an opportunity to use the forum as a platform for whatever product or business announcements that the company wanted to make. The actual number of “customers” that attended these shows was minimal and in fact most of the booth traffic was competitors strolling around looking at the competition and collecting each booth’s “trinkets and trash” that were being given away, and the industry press and writers strolling around asking a few questions so as to justify their attendance as well as collecting the trinkets and trash giveaways. The only way that a large exhibitor would be noticed at one of these shows would be if they decided to save the money and not attend. They would then be conspicuous only in their absence.

The more focused trade shows, be it regional or business aspect in nature were those where the exhibitors and attendees had more in common than just being in the same industry, seemed to have a little more value to the business in that the one incremental level more of specificity assures that there are attendees on both the demand and supply side of the trade show topic. These are typically the trade shows where business is actually conducted as opposed to the larger industry shows are basically announcement forums.

The bottom line was that it seemed that the larger the trade show, the less valuable to the company or its customers for business, but more the value for visibility. The smaller the trade shows the better for customers and companies to do business. The question for all companies and large tradeshows is: How valuable is visibility? What can companies now afford to spend just for “being there”? It is interesting to look at the reduction in the number of large technology industry trade shows over the years as companies have come to grips with this question.

For the individuals manning the booths at either of these types of trade shows, the value truly lies in the opportunity to network with people in the same industry. Making contact with suppliers, competitors and customers within both the appropriate technology and market segments may not provide immediate benefits but it will provide them longer term.

It took me a long time to learn this fact. Just trading and collecting business cards is a waste of time and your business cards. If you are going to make the effort to trade business cards, make the effort to follow up and reach out to make contact. It really doesn’t take that much effort. I wish I had learned this fact in time to put it into execution then. I didn’t, and those new contact opportunities were lost.

There is also the opportunity to reestablish connections and relationships with old friends and past business associates. In today’s business environment it seems that more of our friends move on to new opportunities with other companies. While industries may be considered very big, they are in reality reasonably small and tight knit when it comes to relationships. The ability to maintain older contacts and gain new ones has to be the primary value to individuals who attend tradeshows. That, and learning the ability to stand on your feet, smile and try to have intelligent discussions for ten hours at a time.

It’s been a while since I have actually attended or manned a booth at a trade show. It could be said that it has been so long since I have been at one that I might actually look forward to attending one in the future. I didn’t say that was the case. I just said that it could be said. Trade shows are much more work than anybody who has not been to one would believe. They are not the two drink minimum professional equivalent of a fraternity all-nighter that many have believed them to be. Maybe they are for some; it’s just that I never seemed to have the ability or where withal to be able to stand in a booth all day and then go out all night at one of these venues. However by understanding the value to both the business and the individuals who attend the trade show you will be better able to quantify the benefits to both by attending.

Business Cards

The following Blog Article is one I posted at as a “Guest Blogger” on 10/29/2012. I am reposting it here just in case anyone may have missed it.

When it comes to business cards I guess I can best be described as strictly “old school”. It seems with ever increasing regularity I am getting what I would describe as “new age” business cards. I think the only thing missing from some of them are pyramids or crystals, in the attempt to grab my attention and differentiate one business card from another. I understand the idea but I find it more humorous than professional, and hence more forgettable, which I think is the opposite of the business cards intent.

When was the last time you actually read a business card? In the US we have a tendency to swap cards at a meeting, casually glance at the card we have received and then tuck it in our pocket so that we can be sure to add it to the rubber band bound deck of business cards we keep in our desk drawer at the office. In some parts of the world a business card is presented with both hands, face up and oriented so that the person receiving the card can immediately read it. If you are presented a business card in such a manner and don’t take the time to read the card with the intensity associated with reading the latest Pulitzer prize winning novel, then don’t expect a fully successful meeting. You may have insulted the person who presented you the card.

This process may delay the actual start of a meeting by as much as ten seconds, but I like it, think it is well worth the time and would like to see it more in the US. It demonstrates respect for the information that the person has provided you to start the meeting and by extension the information that they will provide you during the meeting.

Like I said old school.

Increasingly it seems I am getting business cards that remind me of miniature birthday cards. They now come in all sorts of colors. I think this is done in the hopes that by presenting a colorful business, it will make the presenter more memorable. I don’t remember who gives me a colorful business card. I just remember the color. He gave me a red card, or she gave me a blue one. I don’t think that was the objective, but it is the result. They now also appear to come in oversized or even folded formats. This is especially disruptive to my business card filing system as the rubber bands have a tendency to cut in and dog-ear the edges of these cards.

It is the content of the business card that is important.

The company name and logo should clearly prominent across the top of the card. If I forget your name, chances are I will remember the company and search for the card in that manner. If I can’t easily locate the company name on the card it will probably not see the light of day again.

Utilize a landscape as opposed to a portrait orientation to the business card. I have a tendency to hurt my neck as I try to turn my head sideways when I try to read improperly oriented cards. I guess I could just rotate the card ninety degrees, but that would be a little too weird for me.

Put your name in a little larger and bold font. I want to be able to locate it quickly. Put your title and area of responsibility directly below your name so that they can easily be associated. Remember to keep your title short. It would appear that people want to believe that the longer and more detailed their title, the more important they sound. This is the opposite of what is the case. The really important people seem to have titles that are one to three words long. If your title has to be reread multiple times to decipher what it is that you actually do, the chances are that your business card will be dismissed, not remembered.

The back of the business card presents an interesting situation. Simple, clean and blank is always good. I am finding myself coming around to the idea of the corporate web site or URL on the back is good as well, and even perhaps an email address. If you deal in multilingual markets, having all the business card information in the language of the market on the reverse side of a business card is very good as well.
Superfluous information, catch phrases or other personal customizations detract from the card far more than they help.

I once received a card from a lady with a picture of her head on the back. Nothing else, just her smiling face. I asked her why she did that. She said she wanted people to remember her card. I don’t remember her name, what she did, why we met, or who she worked for, but I do remember her card.
I guess it worked, sort of.

In returning to my earlier foreign business card example, businessmen in some parts of the world treat their own and each other’s business cards with respect. They are used as an integral part of conducting business meetings. Here in the US we now seem content to utilize our business cards for not much else other than to drop them in a bowl at the cash register where we eat lunch in the hopes that it may be drawn and we receive a free lunch next week. Maybe the reason for the proliferation of all the new business card colors, sizes and formats is not so much for business purposes, but really for no other reason than to increase the chances of those cards being drawn for the free lunch.

What’s a Cycle?

We have all heard the phrase “cycle time”, but what does it really mean to your business? The simple definition of a “cycle time” is the amount of time it takes to complete an operation or activity. It has now been adopted by, or applied to just about everything in a business. Again, simply put, you need to know and understand the various cycle times – how long it takes to do things – in your business.


Each aspect of your business has an associated cycle time. Your sales cycle time is the time it takes from when you initially introduce the sales opportunity to the customer, to when you get their signature on the order. Your production cycle time is from when you get the order to when you actually have a completed product meeting the order specifications ready to ship. Your development cycle time is the time from product concept to generally available deliverable product.


Another lesser know but equally important cycle time is the Marketing cycle time – The time from when you introduce a marketing program to when you actually see a change in the sales volume from it. It will take time for the market to understand the program. The program will then (hopefully) modify buying behaviors and change the sales cycle time. It will then appear as a change in sales volumes.


Although we might all want our business actions to take immediate effect, we must understand the cycle times we are affecting when we do things. We must understand how long it takes for effects to be seen. We do not want to tie up scarce resource resources waiting for the effects, but we also do not want to be caught without resources when the effects are manifested. Understanding the cycle times of a business enable you to plan and schedule business instead of react to changes as they occur.