Mar 27, 2011

Team Chemistry - Sports and Analytics

Late March is as good time to speak about teamwork. For basketball teams, the right group chemistry is essential, and this on display in the winners of the NCAA tournaments. You can also see how fragile team chemistry can be, in the shift that results when an NBA team adds a "superstar" yet changes their whole approach to playing. The coach has to decide how to best leverage the new individual talents while still maintaining a winning framework.

If you are growing or leading a sales or marketing analytics group, you have choices to make:

- the mix of hands on analysts versus consultants

- whether to staff in house or outsource, or even offshore

- having people steeped in your industry as well as other categories, for a fresh perspective

Then of course, the coaching and training are critical. Analytics is rooted in mathematics and algorithmic techniques which have been around for decades. Yet there are innovative digital, multichannel methods. Thus a leader must find the right mix of setting standards, yet delegating and allowing the group to develop some new innovative thinking.

Mar 22, 2011

Methodically removing balls from the air

Ever feel like you are working on so many responsibilities and immediate deliverables at once? It can be just like you are simultaneously juggling many balls in the air. This can happen in the "functional service areas" like analytics.

The key is to focus on getting items completed, one by one. Not on getting overwhelmed with the total set. Each completed and transitioned result will provide satisfaction for oneself and one's "clients."

But how to choose which one to complete first? You need some kind of "greedy algorithm:"
- first in, first out?
- nearest to the deadlines?
- easiest to get over with?
- task with the most pressure and stress attached?

The "greedy heuristic" you choose for getting the first one off your plate may be up to you, or handed to you.

As you plow through your list of tasks, some might be thorny, and need a new perspective, even a chance to put aside and "sleep on it" before solving.

I remember fondly my days on the high school mathematics team when there was a book called: How to Solve it, by George Polya It gave great problem solving techniques for seeing mathematical puzzles and theorems from a new perspective.
Examples of these techniques are:

* break into sub-problems, relate these to each other, and solve the core sub-problem.
* draw diagrams to represent the core issue
* apply a rotation, or a transformation, so the relevant dimension is more obvious
* find an analogous problem and solve that.

For the technically and mathematically inclined, this is a paperback investment well worth it.

Mar 20, 2011

Chronic conditions, and amplified milestones

In the recent Mediapost "Marketing: Health" online article, Elizabeth Elfenbein and I describe how the basic accomplishments and milestones of daily living are amplified and made more challenging for a patient having a chronic condition. Landmarks that would be ignored or taken for granted are now significant accomplishments. Timescales that would move quickly slow down.

All the more important is the measurement of progress to a patient treating such pain. Diaries, assessment tools, and interactions with caregivers and healthcare providers are critical to obtain positive feedback on treatment.

Have a read at this case study, and let us know your thoughts.

Mar 14, 2011

Perspective in measurement and in life

In measuring time series data, one realizes that significant outliers or spikes will take on significance only over a certain duration and a certain time scale of granularity. A daily spike in website visits may seem signficant within last month's daily visitor plot. However, it may seem less so with a weekly plot. Or it may lose significance further compared to other larger spikes on a duration plot of an entire year.

This spring weekend has brought a new meaning to judging the relative importance of events, and in juding magnitudes of scale of importance. This humble overworked professional has tried to keep up with assignments over the weekend. He's also watched his Amazon rankings of his book on a daily basis, and wished they would nudge higher. These issues pale in comparison to the pleasure of riding bikes and playing baseball with kids as spring draws near. On the negative side, both hassles and joys are tempered by stuggles friends have with flooding nearby.

Furthermore, all of these are tiny in perspective when considering the natural disasters in Japan that happened within a day but whose duration of impact will be measured in years and tens of thousands of lives.

Mar 4, 2011

Consulting workshops and passing the ownership baton

In the consulting business there comes a moment of both risk and reward, and that is the delivery and handoff to the client. Especially true when the consultant is preparing a workshop that the client wishes to lead.
Seems odd to say, but nowadays manufacturer marketers are so busy that they may require consultants, or agencies, to prepare workshops and slides for even their most critical business functions.

When this happens, we on the agency side go through heroic efforts to make the slides, materials, and flow as captivating and engaging for the audience as possible. There may be a couple of check ins with the well-intentioned client, but uncertainty remains.

Finally, the workshop day arrives, and the group that has prepared the messages, visuals, and slides has to transition control. Like a relay race team, the final pass of the baton is to the client running the show, in front of dozens (or even hundreds) of attendees. No talented, speedy relay race team wants to drop the baton, and so consultant have to put the time in and work hard right up until the end of the final pass off of materials.

The moment of euphoria, the proof of the pudding, is when the client moderator takes our presenations and makes it his or her own, adding special corporate and department flavor that only he or she can. The finish line is crossed, and the client company makes strides.

Mar 2, 2011

Convergent branding: hitting the spot.

When I was studying for my math major at MIT, I learned over and over theorems about convergence: how a sequence of numbers gets arbitrarily ever closer to a target. The same concept holds in multi-dimensional space, like in the figure to the left: from all directions, follow the trend and get to the same point.

At The CementBloc, we also talk about convergent branding. From whatever channel a consumer, healthcare professional, or payer comes from, they experience the brand in the same consistent way. Ironically, this does not mean that all of your marketing is located at one point in space. Quite the contrary, the convergence is to the customer, wherever the customer goes, in whatever channel, that is where you place the consistent message.

This has implications for promotional planning. Say you have an audience of healthcare specialists, or consumer caregivers, with a high-volume central portal or community. Then make that favored location part of your convergent messaging plan. But in a subtle way. If you seem promotional, you steer the sequence off course; rather, continue the pattern, and let your true message flow within the direction of that active customer destination.

Heavy stuff? Want to find out more? Make a comment or send an email.