Even I’m not old enough to remember the 1938 radio broadcast that took place on yesterday’s date. I am, however, very aware of what it meant. October 30, 1938 was when The War Of The Worlds aired, directed and narrated by Orson Welles. While his aim may have been entertainment, he succeeded in panicking an entire nation, and therein lies the business point.
Welles set the story up as a series of news bulletins which interrupted a seemingly normal music program (Ramon Raquello for you detail freaks). Based on a novel by H.G. Wells, the news bulletins told of a war against an alien army – Martians invading the Earth. If you’ve never listened to this masterpiece, you can hear it via this link. Unlike the Tom Cruise movie, this has nothing in the way of visual effects but is far more terrifying. It caused panic all over the country as people fled from their homes.
The business point? Almost every business is a content creator these days. While the interwebs may be a cesspool of made-up “facts”, it’s also become a primary source of news and information for a lot of folks. Your business probably isn’t in politics where the standard of truth is just a bit skewed. The self-congratulatory post you add to your blog boasting of your sterling service record might just end up as evidence in a suit brought by someone who was dissatisfied with the reality of your support. Employees might see your website as filled with lies and one of them might decide to be a whistleblower. What they allege might not be true, but it might cost you time and money to prove it.
Welles was providing entertainment (although a lot of very upset people didn’t quite see it that way). His Halloween prank would be easy to check out today (although nothing would stop a smart content creator from flooding the web with a bunch of web pages and tweets set to publish just as the prank was being pulled). A certain amount of hyperbole is accepted by consumers; outright lies aren’t. You need to find that line and stay onside.
Yes, the screed is a little late today, but I’ve got a note excusing me. It’s signed by Sandy. Once again (by my count, the fifth time since I started this blogging thing) I’m writing at the public library over their wi-fi since a massive storm has knocked out power to Connecticut and most of the surrounding area. I don’t expect it back for a few days (OK, I’m hoping it doesn’t take more than a week) but we’ll try to keep the wit and wisdom coming. Today, I’m going to plagiarise myself and repost the missive I wrote after hurricane Irene hit here a couple of years ago. The point made is still a good one – hopefully you all think so too. More fresh stuff tomorrow. I’m going to pick up some branches in the interim. Substitute Sandy for Irene in what follows and you’re up to date!
What a weekend! Whether you live on the East Coast or not, you probably spent a fair amount of time over the last few days hearing a lot about Hurricane Irene. She paid us a visit late Saturday and spent the night as so many house-guests will: wreaking havoc and generally making herself unwelcome. She left us Sunday afternoon but not before killing the power and internet access back at Rancho Deluxe. They’re still out as I’m writing this at my brother- and sister-in-law’s place in the next town over.
Like most folks, we had the time in the calm before the storm to take in the patio furniture, buy provisions, and generally batten down. But what should we be doing in the calm after the storm? That’s the business point today as well.
Every business endures potentially destructive events like Irene even if they’re not actual hurricanes. The loss of a big account, financial misbehavior by trusted employees – I’m sure you can cite dozens of example, hopefully none from experience. While careful preparation is always the best way to deal with incidents of that sort, I always found it was just as valuable to have a debrief after the storm. In the general sense of relief at the crisis being over, people still have a sharp focus on what tested them the most and how things could have gone better. Sure, you’d rather avoid the events altogether but a clear post-analysis is a critical element in creating the action plan for the next time. And trust me – there always is a next time.
We got off relatively lightly – a few branches down and no power for (hopefully) a day or so. We probably should have done a better job of eating stuff in the fridge and freezer the few days leading into the storm since it won’t all fit in the cooler we’ve got filled with ice – that’s the debrief. What are you taking away from the storms that have come your way?
We have a running joke here at Rancho Deluxe about the two guys you never ever want to see nearby. You might be thinking they’re the undertaker and the tax collector. Nope. Think for a minute about who are always on the locations of some pending or immediate disaster. Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel and CNN’s Anderson Cooper (but only when he’s wearing a black tee-shirt). Cantore & Cooper – sounds like a law firm but it’s not. It’s far worse than that. In fact, if you ever see either of these two in your neighborhood, get out. If you see them both, prepare for the Apocalypse since the end is near.
I thought about that yesterday as the weather-related Mr. C was reporting from Battery Park awaiting the hurricane. Of course, they evacuated the area and I’m not sure if that’s response to anything other than Jim’s presence. But it did get me thinking about a business point.
Just as either of these two showing up means trouble in the area, every business has relatively reliable indicators of trouble. They might as easy to find as on a monthly financial statement or as difficult to track as a pattern of employee turnover but they’re there. Every one of us can probably tick off a few that we use to tell us when things might need a little extra attention (or when it’s time to pull the fire alarm). I wonder, however, how many of us formalize that process? Do we compile a list that’s the aggregation of all the factors our best folks identify? Do we regularly pay attention to the data from each of those areas? Or are we more in the business of forecasting by sticking our head out the window to see if it gets wet and proclaim that it’s raining?
The storm battering the East Coast is terrible but imagine what would have happened had it hit with no warning and without people taking protective measures in advance? Your business is like that if you’re not identifying and reacting to data. Gut feel isn’t a bad thing but something more reliable should be in the mix. And now I’m going to check to see where the two Mr. C’s are. Hopefully far, far, away…
For our Foodie Friday Fun this week, let’s take just a minute to think about what goes into you receiving a simple plate of food at a restaurant.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’ve been with many folks who order and scarf down their meals without a thought as to the enormous enterprise that went into making that dish happen. I know they thought about if the food was good and if the service was up to their standards. They didn’t really consider, however, all the other elements that go into a great meal.
Consider how much work goes into that one plate of food. Someone (the chef) has to plan the menu and order the components. When those ingredients show up at the restaurant, they need to be inventoried and broken down (by prep cooks) into products with which the line cooks can work. Primal cuts are broken down into steaks and chops. Cases of potatoes and bags of carrots are peeled. All this before the real prep work begins. It’s an assembly line of sorts although we don’t think of kitchen work as a manufacturing job.
Prep cooks give way to the line cooks who actually fabricate the dish for you. In between are the servers and the rest of the front of house folks. All these people need to be hired, trained, supervised and paid. What’s the business point?
The point is that we don’t notice, nor should we. Most of us are in the same boat. When I was teaching I knew that for every hour of classroom time there would be another hour or two of prep that the kids never saw. A simple budget presentation of one slide can involve dozens of people and hundreds of hours of prep yet the only time that anyone asks about the process is when something is out of whack. That’s really the business point. Apple is famous for doing technology that “just works.” Web pages and sites involve thousands of hours of design, coding, and creativity but we tend not to notice that until something broken. We don’t think about how our cars were built and designed until something is wrong. The list goes on and on.
Cooking in a professional kitchen involves something unknown to most jobs – the physical reproduction of a product, from 50-60 times a day, presented in a seamless manner. Like the proverbial swimming duck, there’s an awful lot going on under the water. We might just be most successful when no one knows that but us!
An interesting piece of research from the folks at Borrell Associates this morning that concerns how small and medium businesses are using digital channels. Given that nearly every local business seems to have a website, I wasn’t surprised to read that over half of SMB online marketing dollars are spent supporting what the survey calls “web presence.” This is their site design and maintenance, hosting, as well as their social media management. What I hadn’t thought about was the study’s conclusions as summed up in this post:
Digital advertising is yielding the spotlight to digital services. The emerging lesson, concludes the study, is that the Internet is actually not much of an advertising medium after all.
That was an “ah-ha!” moment for me. Then again, I can’t remember the last time I clicked on a web banner and unless I’m searching with an intent to buy immediately (as opposed to just conducting research), I generally ignore the PPC ads that seem to surround everything. As it turns out the average U.S. small/medium business spends $17,000 on online services, compared with $6,800 on online advertising, hence the conclusion about it not being a medium. Then again, there is a big division even within this group since those with fewer than 50 employees will spend less than $500 a year, while a mid-size business with more than 50 employees will spend an average of $63,000. The little guys spend a higher percentage of their budgets on web hosting and their site (make sense since this is the one indispensable element in my opinion) as well as email and SEO (getting found is always important!). Once the budgets grow the companies can afford to branch out into other areas (blog management, analytics, etc.).
The report concludes by noting that, as the web becomes more of a basic marketing tool for business, the importance of online support services will grow as well. The midsize and larger companies are likely to internalize services that they once contracted out. Those larger companies will either assign SEO and social media management tasks to existing staff, or hire fulltime experts in digital marketing
I’ve seen that occur with some companies for which I’ve worked. Here on the screed we probably don’t think about the interwebs as a service-driven space and probably spend too much time on it as a medium I’m going to rethink that based on this study since many of the folks who contact me fit the small and medium business category. What do you think?