Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Meeting of the IEDC Alumni Club in Croatia

There were some good news from the alumni network – they are alive! It's not good news in itself, but taking into account the current crisis and a dismal fact that majority of former students of business schools in region don't stay in touch after graduation, the fact that Croatian Alumni Club organizes regular activities and meetings is a great thing. Unfortunately, this was the first formal occasion after graduation in 2008. that I attended, and it was good opportunity to meet some of my old colleagues and to make acquaintance with some new ones.

One of the interesting activities organized by the Croatian Club is sailing, held each year in May, on the beautiful Adriatic coast. I haven't been able to participate in the last two years, but for sure one day I will find enough free time to experience life on the boat. The second activity is Case Study competition, organized for the potential students of the school. And recently, the web page of the club has been opened.

I hope the club will continue to function successfully and of course, I will give my contribution to it. The reputation of the school is measured, among other things, by the strength of its alumni network.

See you at the next event!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Send and Pray

The ongoing crisis has obviously changed some behaviors and habits of the people and businesses in this part of Europe. Companies have almost ubiquitously cut costs, cut budgets and cut headcount. As usual, one of the first budgets to be cut was marketing budget, but of course, it was not completely canceled. Every company needs sales and marketing, and some sort of sales-generating activities has to be done. Since money is a scarce resource these days, marketing departments have turned to the cheaper methods of promotion and advertising, one of them being the notorious e-mail marketing.

I'm not talking here about spam, I'm talking about those nicely crafted e-mails sent to you by existing businesses offering you great product at fantastic price. And, don't get me wrong, I don't complain about practice of using e-mail as a marketing channel, I'm using it also! And it's good to be proactive in the time of crisis. But, unfortunately, the vast majority of those mails are very un-sophisticated.

First of all, it seems to me that majority of Croatian companies never heard of the concept of "opting-out" or "opting-in". Not only that in many cases I was put on someone's newsletter list, although I never gave my e-mail address, but sometime I don't even have option to unsubscribe, or if I have it it's made very inconvenient. For example, my favorite is mailing list from one company that asks me to send them back blank mail if I want to unsubscribe (BTW: it never worked)!

Secondly, very few of them have been personalized. It seems to me that Croatian companies are not even able to learn my name, although it's easily recognizable from my mail-address. And not only that, the content of mail is obviously the same for all the recipients, although majority of their offering usually doesn't interest me. And some staff that really interests me are buried somewhere inside their clunky mail.

And finally, I'm not completely sure about this, but based on my technical insight and feedbacks from the market, it seems that very few of them are using any kind of Marketing Service Provider, or that they track results of their e-mail campaigns in any effective way. For example, important questions like "What is click-through rate of our mails", "what is read rate?" or "how many mails are forwarded?" evidently stay unanswered for many of well-meaning initiators of mailing campaigns.

And its pity, because measuring e-mail marketing results doesn't need to be expensive or time-consuming. It can be easy as using some type of web analytics engine and smartly designing your mail, or more sophisticated like using functionalities of your CRM solution (and you have one, don't you?)

Unfortunately, without way of measuring success (or failure) of e-mail marketing campaigns, most of those mailing efforts will be like sending to whoever you can, and praying that someone will respond to your mail someday.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

More about parallels between chess and life

To my pleasant surprise I found that some people are actually reading my blog! So, in this post I will continue the topic touched in the last post, similarities and differences between chess and life (or chess and business, in that matter). Last time I was a little bit lame, I only scratched the surface of this topic, so now I will elaborate a little bit on this issue.

For me, as a chessplayer, it's always intriguing when I find some expert from some other field who uses chess analogy to illustrate his point. Good example is field of strategic management, in which words and concepts such as "strategy", "tactics", "resources", "planning" are abundant, and yet those same terminology is central to chess theory, especially concepts of strategy and planning. One nice little anecdote from chess world, I found many times in business litterature is story about renowned grandmaster who "played an exibition match against a New York amateur - and lost. The champion was renowned for his chessboard strategy . his ability to plan a dozen or more moves ahead as a game developed. At the post-match press conference the amateur was asked how many moves ahead he had planned in defeating the master. 'Only one,' he replied. 'The right one.'" And, many times the companies who were planning a lot in advance were beaten by those who saw only one move in advance - the right one.

Puting strategic management aside, the other discipline that uses chess as an interesting field of investigation is decision making. I have read several researches in this field that have used chess players in experiments regarding decision making process, making correlations and conclusions about decision making in time-pressure situations. It's quite logical, since in chess you have limited amount of time to make a lot of decision during one average game.

Psychologysts also took interest in chess, and vice versa. Nothing to surprise us, since it's one important aspect of the game, a lot was written about importance of talent in chess, cognitive process of thinking, personality of chess players and so on. And, I cannot resist to tell another joke about one famous grandmaster (not the same one as in the previous example) who "was playing a simul in the Mental institution in New York. He made pretty good result but some tall guy was playing absolutely brilliant and has demolished the Grandmaster. At the parting Grandmaster congratulated to the winner once again and this one said: 'Mister Evans. For one it's not indispensable to be crazy so he could play good, but it really helps alot.'"
And I can continue list with computer science, game theory, even philosophy etc...

Nevertheless, one should not go too far in drawing parallels between chess and live. One very important dimension is the social one. Chess is a zero-sum game, you win or lose, or you can share a point with your opponent, but you can take the whole point or share it, you cannot make it bigger and than distribute id. There is little space for cooperation, making consensus, making coallitions or lobbying, and this is one of the fundamental building blocks of social space. Chess is good in illustrating competitive situations when you are trying to outsmart your opponent, but sometimes you don't know who is your oppononent, and sometime you don't need to outsmart him, and most of the time it's more important who are your friends.

And, with those thoughts I will conclude this post. This was not intended to be chess-blog, but I'm glad that I have captured attention of some internet-dwellers, I hope you will follow me in the posts that will come.