Internet and Business Strategy
Rob's eMarketing Strategy Must Reads:
Formulation of Strategy
by Robert T. Plant. A very nice approach to doing what the
Marketing : How to Get Customers to Sense, Feel, Think, Act,
and Relate to Your Company and Brands by Bernd H. Schmitt.
Schmitt argues for managing the total customer experience,
paying especial attention to the emotional component of the
experience. His approach is an interesting effort, but strikes
me as too centered on the poly-geographic post-modern man.
A tolerable read if you've a chunk of time to kill.
Social Life of Information by John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid.
This book is a welcome voice in the sea of voices transfixed
on the communication technologies that transport information
from person to person. Brown and Duguid step back and explore
the social purpose of information, how information fits within
our lives. Afterall, information is only as useful to the
extent you can apply it to something if import to you. Brown
and Duguid also have interesting takes on the direction social
information will flow and how higher education might be transformed.
What they propose is not the party line. For example, with
information easily accessible via the Internet, it is widely
assumed that information impactedness is an economic concept
of the past (Oliver Williamson provides the classic treatment
of information impactedness in his book Markets
and Hierarchies). From their perspective, Brown and Duguid
offer a compelling argument the information impactedness is
alive and well in this Internet era. A great read!
Rules : How the Internet Is Changing the Way Consumers Make
Choices by Tom Murphy. If you like war stories, this book
is for you. This book features interviews with a number of
web luminaries. If you've had your head in the sand for the
last five years, you will find this book interesting. If'
you've been paying attention over the duration, this book
has little new to offer.
to Bits : How the New Economics of Information Transforms
Strategy by Philip Evans, Thomas S. Wurster. Evans and
Wurster make the basic point that retailers are confronted
with a breadth and depth dilemma. Given limited shelf space,
they must negotiate the trade off between offering lots of
products (breadth) with limited choice within in product category
(low depth) or offer fewer products but greater variety within
each category. Evans and Wurster argue that information technologies
allow us to break the bredth-depth constraint; that available
information technologies allow us to now offer breadth and
depth simultaneously. For example, it is now possible to offer
large quantities of advice on myriad topics (e.g., epinions)
or lots of selection across myriad product categories (Amazon.com
is the oft cited poster boy here).
How to Create a Profitable Business Strategy for the Internet
and Beyond by Patricia B. Seybold (Contributor), R.
T. Marshak, Ronni Marshak.
Customers.com is an interesting read. Sybold's "8 lessons"
are important. The case studies detailed in the book are
interesting. Customers.com tries hard to avoid being yet
another "look at the cool things information technologies
let us infuse into our marketing programs!" book. Yet, as
the Patty's RX sections reveal, the book is weak in providing
forward-looking guidance. I suppose this weakness stems
from the book's failure to lay out a generative conceptual
model that motivates the key lessons. As Sybold notes in
the book, the treatment of community in particular is weak,
demonstrating limited understanding of why community is
important and, perhaps more importantly, when community
can be an important (essential) element of a marketing mix.
In short, customers.com does a nice job illustrating what
works for the companies profiled (although, my personal
dealings with LL Bean suggest that her glowing praises of
their systems over state the capability of LL Bean's programs).
Yet, when it comes to explaining why those elements work,
customers.com comes up short. That short coming aside, I
classify Customers.com a "maybe read." (Review
written December 14, 1999).
Capital: Harnessing the Power of Business Webs by Don
Tapscott, David Ticoll, Alex Lowy.
Up Digital : The Rise of the Net Generation by Don Tapscott.
Tapscott is an unabashed promoter of digital culture. Kids
populating chat groups seems as natural to him as kids gathering
to play after school. Tapscott is a firm believer that the
Internet is bringing about profound changes in society,
work, and parent-child relations. Tapscott's rosy scenario
is grounded in observations derived from contact with an
unspecified number of young net-savvy informants (my phrase,
not Tapscott's). And therein lies the rub. Tapscott generalizes
his observations of net-savvy youth to the entire Baby Boom
Echo generation (i.e., those born from about 1977 to 1997),
renaming it the Net Generation. "Net Segment"
would be a better description of the interesting patterns
Tapscott identifies and discusses at length.
One of Tapscott's pet theories is that the Net Generation
is heralding a new paradigm for parent-child relations.
Specifically, he sees parents increasingly relying on their
children for guidance through the digital landscape. And
he believes this parent relying on children for advice pattern
is a permanent shift. This assumes kids will always be more
info tech savvy then their parents. Of this, I'm doubtful.
I prefer to believe Tapscott has identified a temporary
phenomenon. Yes, at present, some kids have more knowledge
about things digital than their parents. Yes, some kids
are leading the digital charge. Yet, I suspect this pattern
applies primarily to kids of parents working jobs that have
yet absorb the benefits of Internet enabled information
technologies. I wonder if children of parents who work in
information industries evidence this inverted influence
pattern. Casual observation makes me doubtful. In this era
of multi-million Internet startups, I'm also doubtful that
the now legendary CD-Now can ever be repeated.
About the impact that Internet enabled information technologies
can have on education, Tapscott is optimistic. I share Tapscott's
vision of how educational systems must be reformed to leverage
the benefits of the info technologies currently available.
Education (primary, secondary, and college levels) remain
mired in the conventional broadcast model in which the professor
teaches the students content. Unfortunately, many educators
are oblivious of the exciting ways they can leverage the
Internet and info technologies to revamp their content and
teaching approaches. For this to happen, most educators
must retool themselves. Unfortunately, there are few incentives
in in education, as pursued today in the United States,
for teachers to undertake such an adventure. Indeed, the
innovative, experimental, risk-taking educator runs the
risk of annoying his peers and wrath of administrators who
desire to oversee status quo institutions rather than dynamic
learning institutions. Little wonder the home schooling
movement has gained such force.
Tapscott is a strong advocate that parents are responsible
for their child's use of the Internet. I applaud this stand.
I'm sick and tired of parents who whine about the media
their children consume, hoping someone else will assume
their parental responsibility of monitoring their kids activities.
I also find refreshing Tapscott's view that Internet access
isn't a factor that can divide society. Rather it is having
the requisite cognitive skills necessary to leverage the
information available that matters. Which brings us back
You've probably surmised by now that Growing Up Digital
got me thinking. I don't agree with every thing Tapscott
proposes. Indeed, I feel strongly that he over states the
generality of the Net Segment. That aside, the book is thought
provoking and worth a read. (Review written: Tuesday, December
Rules : A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy by Carl
Shapiro and Hal R. Varian. This book provides an excellent
discussion of how traditional economics apply to digital products.
Written in a very accessible manner, even those unschooled
in economic theory should have little difficulty following
their prose. So, you wonder, are the laws of economics being
rewritten in this digital era? Read the book to find out.
A good read. (Comments written Wednesday, March 29, 2000).
Marketing : Successful Strategies for the Age of the Customer
by Regis McKenna. Most eCommerce books topping the charts
these days tout relationship marketing. Rather than settle
for an abbreviated, watered-down version, get a solid shot
of RM from Regis McKenna, the guy who set all this in motion.
Loyalty Effect : The Hidden Force Behind Growth, Profits,
and Lasting Value by Frederick F. Reichheld (Contributor),
Thomas Teal (Contributor). Loyalty, if discussed at all,
tends to be treated in a fragmented manner. The popular
press overflows with articles decrying the demise of customer
loyalty to brands or companies, of employee loyalty (i.e.,
it is difficult for companies to retain talented employees)
and investor loyalty (all the column inches lavished on
daytrading, give the impression that investors stick with
a stock no longer than a few hours). In short, loyalty is
out of vogue. Reicheld's book effectively demonstrates that
loyalty matters; companies that master the loyalty equation
will prosper, those that don't will languish.
My key takeaways from Reicheld's book are:
- Loyalty matters in a bottom-line, profit-maximization
- Customer, employee, and investor loyalty are three sides
of the same process; each requires and reinforces the
other. The book's multiple case studies to illustrate
this point. The case studies also provide multiple examples
of effective customer, employee, and investor loyalty
- Loyalty is a process that must infuse a company's entire
organizational structure. Loyalty, adopted as the strategy
du jour, is a waste of time.
- A loyalty strategy is the most effective route available
for the many companies seeking to reduce costs and improve
As much as I like this book, I must say that it contains
the most tortured explanation of customer net present value
analysis that I've ever seen in print.
All in all: A must
Guide to E-Business : From Tactics to Strategy by Martin
V. Deise, Conrad Nowikow, Patrick King, Amy Wright, PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Tipping Point : How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
by Malcolm Gladwell. I have to admit up front that Gladwell's
Tipping Point left me fascinated, amused, and the social scientist
in me frustrated. Gladwell's examples fascinated me. As one
would expect of a journalist, Gladwell has a good eye for
assembling details into an intriguing pattern. Most notably,
is his assembly of examples drawn from a broad variety of
contexts (marketing, criminal behavior) brought to gether
to illustrate how a small change in one area can produce a
disproportionate impact in another area. Gladwell invokes
a model of epidemic expansion to drive his narrative. Anyone
with a background in quantitative statistics will instantly
recognize that Gladwell is talking about situations in which
predictor variables have a nonlinear effect on an outcome
variable. The logistic, or s-shaped, outcome function is a
popular form of non-liner relationship. Catastrophe theory
offers, what I find to be, a more compelling way to map multiple
predictor variables into a response surface that can yield
dramatically different qualitative outcomes, including abrupt
jumps, depending on the values of the predictor values. Gladwell's
choice of featured individuals left me amused as a number
of them are professional colleagues that I happen to know
beyond the his mono-dimensional portraits. What frustrated
me about this book is how it winds down. Gladwell begins the
book by laying out a nice frame work for understanding when
modest changes in certain factors may yield large changes
in a key outcome. Unfortunately, as the book progresses the
journalist in Gladwell takes over. The framework is abandoned
and the desire to wow the reader with memorable examples dominates.
OK, not great.