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?

Emerging Media: Invisible Media

The beautiful thing about social networks is their invisible walls.

The ugly thing about social networks is their invisible walls.

While many of us are thrilled to live where we live and engage in high-level intellectual sparring with individuals across the globe, some of us still don’t seem to get out of our own ego-centric way to embrace the engagement.

Some embrace these invisible walls, stretching their hands and minds across continents.  And, some, well, they just seem to drop their trousers and press their cheeks against it.

This week in IMC 619, aka Emerging Media & the Market, our class continued our discussion about emerging media and the multiple market segments each medium serves.  We specifically analyzed Fortune 500 Web sites and their ability, or inability, to connect with minority customer segments.  We quickly concluded that while some organizations had made considerable leaps forward in their ability to connect with minorities, many were putting no more effort into the process than a mere language translation (often only offered in Spanish) of their Web site.

Why?  Aren’t we living in a highly diverse country?  Don’t we value our customers?  Haven’t we “come a long way baby”?

After all, this great melting pot we call the U.S. is not only melting, but melting at an accelerated rate. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Hispanics now constitute 16% of the nation’s total population of 308.7 million. They are the majority minority, ahead of Census projections.

So, beyond statistics, why does this matter?  It matters because many English-speaking, U.S. based companies, are still missing opportunities to effectively connect with viable customer segments.  And, while for years we have discussed lack of knowledge about the cultures as a barrier for effective marketing (which is still by and large true), the reality is that many companies are afraid to market to minority customers due to retribution from Anglo-Americans (for lack of a better term).

Jennifer, one of my fellow students, shared a blog post written in 2011 in response to a Facebook accident that shows this short-sightedness in real life. For those of you not familiar with the incident, Coca-Cola, due to a coding glitch, accidentally posted on Facebook in Portuguese to an English-speaking audience.  And because Facebook is one of those social networks with invisible walls, this error allowed many to show their ugly faces and display their xenophobia.

Side note: I had not heard the word xenophobia before it was used in class this week. And now that SOPA is stalled (and hopefully dead), I was able to find it on Wikipedia.    

So, I would remind English-speaking Anglos that when we make assumptions about “our social media” and assume that everything is us, not them, we might want to not be so bold to assume.  In his post, Creamer points to an interesting ComScore factoid sharing that “An estimated 80% of Facebook’s active users are outside the U.S., with (Portuguese-speaking) Brazil and India growing at a rate of 23% and 11%, respectively, between February and May 2011, according to ComScore.” And, being the good grad school student, I found another quick link or two that may be of interest to you as you think about these invisible walls:

Facebook stats: http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics

Facebook users as a percentage of country population: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/facebook/top-10-countries-in-facebook-adoption-december-2011/6836

You Tube views by non-English speaking audience:http://socialtimes.com/youtube-views-non-english-speaking-audience_b83277

Learning…in real life

What good are theories if we don’t know how they apply to real life? What good are new emerging media tools if we don’t know how to use them?  And what good is this blog if you can’t read it and immediately use it in real life?

Stay tuned as I explore these questions and others in Integrated Marketing Communication In Real Life aka IMC IRL.

Over the next 9 weeks I’ll post weekly, if not more frequently, sharing the hot topics burning up the discussion boards in IMC 619: Emerging Media & The Market graduate course at WVU.

To give you a quick feel for IMC 619, here are the course learning outcomes extracted straight from the syllabus:

  1. Identify the role emerging media plays in an IMC campaign.
  2. Compare, contrast and experience the emerging media organizations are using to build relationships with consumers.
  3. Recognize the ethical issues involved in using emerging media as a marketing communications tool.
  4. Understand how marketers are using emerging media to reach youth and minorities.
  5. Define the role of creativity and design in emerging media.

If any of these issues seem interesting to you, I encourage you to follow along, participate, and discuss.  I promise that while we will discuss theory and throw in the occasional 3-syllable word, we will always discuss marketing communication in real terms for real people in real life.

Enjoy!

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