Emerging Media: Evolving Business Models

This week in IMC 619 aka Emerging Media & the Market Professor Post challenged our class to “Explore the articles on the A List Apart website for an insider’s view on creative Web design.”  What a challenge!

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a designer, programmer or anything of the like, and I don’t play one on TV.  I know there are individuals far more talented than I that can efficiently develop and maintain Web sites, internal data communications infrastructure, and can design beautiful graphics that will leave customers speechless.  I humbly bow to them all.

I am the entrepreneur that has owned and operated my own business, the financial manager that understands the nuances of cash flow, asset management, and the junior organizational psychologist that understands people development, environment, and culture. I understand how my customers search for and buy my products and services.  I know how to discover what’s important to them and how to successfully deliver that value.  I know how to develop sustainable customer relationships through all media – emerging and traditional – and coach other internal customers and stakeholders to do the same. I understand how business models work and how every customer touch point impacts the company’s financial performance. But this no longer seems to be enough.

In my recent job search (I am 3 months unemployed at the time of this post) I have become increasingly dismayed at the few employment opportunities for “Marketing” that exist now on Career Builder, Indeed.com, and the like. Most businesses are looking for a strategic business thinker that can develop a strategic marketing plan including market share projections, ROI expectations, along with the usual strong verbal and written communications skills, presentation, customer service, business, and negotiation skills necessary to succeed in a rapidly-changing environment. And that would be okay if that’s all they wanted in one person. But it’s not.

Often these same Marketing position descriptions include experience in Web-based software development, including programming experience with Microsoft’s .NET technologies, including C#, as well as expertise with relational databases and SQL. And don’t forget critical 5 years plus experience with Adobe CS5, CSS, Java, as well as the ability to effectively communicate graphically (read: accomplished graphic designer with programming expertise).

Is this realistic? Can a left-brained IT programmer and a right-brained graphic artist and a centrist-brained marketing professional be the same person?  Or are too many organizations still relying on outdated business models that have lost their relevancy, attempting to cram additional responsibilities onto one function because it’s simpler than re-thinking their org chart?

Who would have thought that less than 10 years ago many businesses had no line items for content management development, customer relationship management, and Web site development in their budgets?  And these same organizations hadn’t a clue as to what a new organizational chart should look like if they incorporated a Web site into their business model.  And who knew how to manipulate a business model that could capitalize on open source, multi-sided platforms, the long tail or (gasp) free and freemiums as a business opportunity?

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so critical.  Change is difficult.  And innovation is not for the weak of heart.  Who would have thought that in 2010 the average organization spends 20% of its marketing budget on content marketing?

So what can we take away from all of this?  How does it apply in real life?

In real life we need to understand that Web sites and other forms of emerging media have dramatically impacted our business models whether we engage these tools in marketing or choose to simply push them aside.  Business models need some attention.  How we create, deliver, and capture value has changed.  To be viable in this changing environment and to capitalize on the new low-cost tools available to us, we need to address these changes today.

One of my favorite tools for re-thinking business models is Business Model Generation. No, I don’t receive any royalties for recommending this book, nor am I related to any of the great minds behind the concept (although I wish I were one).  This tool breaks the 9 building blocks of any business model into 9 segments: customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, key resources, key activities, key partnerships, and cost structure.  But rather than droning on, I have incorporated a Slideshare (love that emerging media) into this post so you can get a better feel for the tool.

Why did I diverge from the design and development of Web site discussion in our class this week for this post?  I didn’t. Web sites must be an integral part of your business model.  You must know how your customers use your Web site, what they want from their interaction, and where value can be created and exchanged.  And just as a successful business model must know the Web site’s role in its business enterprise, the same business must understand the role of people and the very real and hard look they must take when effectively designing their organizational structure.

Sales, promotion, public relations, webinars, online video conferencing, geolocation, social media… what will or more importantly what can your business model look like moving forward?

One thought on “Emerging Media: Evolving Business Models

  1. A jack of all trades and a master of none. I am a melting pot for written communication, desktop publishing, copyrighter, customer relations, advertising, public relations, meeting planner and whatever else comes across the transom. Sounds pretty great, right? But my strength comes in numbers instead of a single expertise that I can hang my hat on.
    Over the last few years, I have learned there is a place for all types and personalities, so their value is leveraged to the fullest. It’s OK that you are not an expert in everything and leveraging your personal and business relationships help you get the answers you need to succeed. You can shine in your niche or you can shine in your world of multi-disciplinary functions, but the more functions you take on the more each suffers from your daily juggling act. Can one be a web developer and a web designer? Absolutely, but more than likely one discipline will suffer. With technology evolving at such a rapid pace, maybe a business model should contain criteria like, flexible, receptive to change, innovator and thinking outside the box.

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