The Zeitgeist

“Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” 
– Yoda reminds Luke of the problem with trying too hard to predict the future 

Today I was going to write about ‘how to run a meeting’, but I’ve opted to save that for next week. 
 
During my travels this week, I’ve had a lot of time to think. I’ve written and spoken to all of you about personalization and how it will be the dominant marketing paradigm for the foreseeable future. I want to take a moment and refine that thought for each of you as you consider how we can better support our clients, and more importantly how we develop our solutions for personalization. There has been a lot of great work in the past few weeks producing papers on our business and technical solutions – thank you to everyone for all of the efforts, it is driving our business to a new level! 
 
There is a concept used in advertising called the “Zeitgeist”. It’s a word that comes from some fairly heady German philosophy, which translated means “the spirit of the age” or the “spirit of the times”. It refers to an invisible agent or force dominating the characteristics of a culture. In advertising, there are iconic ad campaigns that seem to resonate with the masses at a visceral level. These campaigns are effective because they speak to the culture well beyond the normal frequency and reach the strategy of showing a commercial every 10 minutes. They become a metaphor representing the cultural ethos… think internet memes. As a creative director, the goal has always been to combine imagery, writing, and music into a campaign that reaches the masses at their core. Each of us has a favorite TV commercial that we remember and can recite by heart. 
 
There has been a lot of talk about how politics have become tribal – groups of people banding together around a common theme or perspective. As those groups begin to share with one another, they create an echo chamber and continue a process of finding and selecting content that they agree with. This is known as confirmation bias. The internet and social media have allowed us to define ourselves into ever more discrete groups. There is a community for virtually every topic of human interest in the world. You are a unique combination of interests and ideas; since all the information of the world is available through the internet, you will explore, evolve, and change over the course of your life. Each of us has our own Zeitgeist, a spirit of the times that guides our choice for the experience. 
 
Now that we are all connected and our choice of experience is self-determined, a customer experience strategy designed for the masses is folly. Do not confuse efficiency with intimacy; we can enhance digital experiences to make them more effective, but that doesn’t build a brand the way an emotional connection does. Many of us have participated in discussions about the long lines at Disneyland and yet it’s still a brand experience like no other in the world. The real opportunity is to understand people, which is now possible through powerful analytical tools – and to deliver the content “Experiences” that speak to their Zeitgeist. Our software partnerships have given us the platform to deliver personalization on a global scale. Now it’s up to us to continue to develop and refine our techniques for helping our clients achieve the goal of reaching each of their customer’s hearts through personalization.  
 
Let’s go be great, 
Brad 

The Importance of Personalization

I hope you enjoyed the retrospective on advertising and marketing last week. It’s important to know where we came from so we can understand where we are going and how big is the step is forward.

For those who were wondering, Mark Goode won the contest on the ad campaigns, and here are the answers:
• Plop Plop Fizz Fizz oh what a relief it is – Alka Seltzer
• The Energizer bunny – Duracell Energizer Batteries
• Quality is job one – Ford
• Just Do It – Nike
• Where’s the beef – Wendy’s
• The most interesting man in the world – Originally Dos Equis
• We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two – Farmers Insurance
• MMM MMM GOOD – Campbell’s Soup
• Melts in your mouth not in your hands – M&M’s (Mars company)
• Don’t leave home without it – American Express
• Because you’re worth it – L’Oréal Paris
• A diamond is forever – DeBeers Diamonds

As you’re reading, watching TV, and surfing the internet, try to notice how marketers are influencing you with mnemonic tricks to change your brand perception.

Back to the importance of personalization. Companies that can provide efficiencies and a great experience win – look at Amazon, Uber, Lyft, and Venmo. Simple, efficient, and they solve everyday problems. Social platforms have given rise to companies that enhance the human experience by connecting people and their choices… think of Facebook, Yelp, and Netflix – all tools for enhancing your experience.

When you think about Fortune 500 companies, they’ve been successful by increasing market share and refining business models over decades. They are empires with millions of customers and well-established practices for managing growth and profit. They have the most to lose as technology advances and consumer expectations change. One of our insurance clients was lamenting the fact that millennials are buying life insurance at an ever-decreasing rate when at the same time they are spending more money on monthly subscriptions to products and services – more than the previous generations by some order of magnitude. Why it so hard to get a millennial to make a monthly payment for something that is a wise financial choice?

I believe it has a lot to do with how people make purchases and how information is consumed today. Since most purchases now include some measure of research and glancing at customer reviews, this model lends itself to simpler, quicker, purchases that are amplified by word of mouth. So, if you’re a big company with an empire to protect, how do you maintain a relationship with your customer, evolve it over time, educate them, and leverage the latest technology? And, if you don’t, some technology-enabled startup that’s in tune with the new purchasing paradigms is going to clean your clock.

We believe the answer is creating efficient and personalized experiences for your customers. ‘One size fits all’ isn’t enough anymore, and it certainly doesn’t overcome the complexities of building relationships and educating your customers so they make good decisions. We are helping our clients replicate human to human interaction digitally.

There is a great documentary called AlphaGo (you can find it on Netflix), about how Google built an AI program to compete with the best GO player in the world. GO is arguably the most complex game that humans have created.

At Tahzoo we are offering a profoundly different way to approach personalization, digital marketing, and customer experience. We are leveraging the latest technologies and applying them in innovative ways to change the world, or as I like to remind everyone, we get to make millions of people just a little bit happier every day.

Let’s go be great!
Brad

Integrated Delivery Model

“I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.” – Franklin P. Adams 

Integrated Delivery Model 

  
Hi Everyone, 
 
There is an old proverb which states that “you can’t cross a chasm in two small steps.” We are transforming the business to be ready for the new wave of opportunity in front of us. The blend of Strategy, Creative, and Technology will be a key differentiator for Tahzoo going forward. I believe that if we marry these three disciplines together effectively we will have a lasting competitive advantage. 
 
During the August All-Hands Meeting, we will focus on the integrated delivery model and how we plan to leverage our core organizational strengths to grow our business. Consider this a call for speakers – I want to hear from you. 
 
We made some organizational changes today that are an important part of readying the company and increasing accountability. There have been several well-documented delivery challenges and they need to be fixed immediately. We are not a project shop; We are an account-based business and we thrive on sustained long term relationships with our clients. We need to do our work right the first time and continue to do it right to grow our business. 
 
Wouldn’t it be nice if, after a bunch of thoughtfulness and hard work, your project just came out perfectly? Well… all great works, including great companies, take time and perseverance. We will keep working on the organizational structure and alignment until we get it just right.  
 
Thanks, 
Brad 

Evolving Our Business

“Learning experiences are like journeys. The journey starts where the learning is now, and ends when the learner is successful. The end of the journey isn’t knowing more, it’s doing more.” –  Julie Dirksen 

Our business is changing. We are zeroing in on delivering contextually appropriate content and personalized experiences as our core value proposition. As I discussed a few weeks ago, the CMS business is declining and consequently not generating the entrée into large accounts as it has in the past. The launch of MarketerCX last week is a major step forward for Tahzoo. We now have a platform to sell (or at the very least a way to demo) the value of personalization. Although the work that we do is very complex, we need to obscure the complexity for our clients and make it look simple. MarketerCX will show what ‘is possible’ so we can drive the right discussions with our clients. 
 
In concert with this effort, we are retooling the Strategy team. Over the years, we’ve delivered a wide range of strategy services, research, and personalization planning. We’ve consolidated the service offerings into three large buckets: Management Consulting, Personalization Planning, and Digital Marketing Strategy. 
 
The Management Consulting practice is focused on providing the business acumen and financial analysis necessary to support an enterprise-wide digital transformation effort. The work that we did at Starbucks as part of a global MarTech assessment is an example of this work. Darrell and John will be hosting a brown bag session to review the deliverables. It’s great work and important that you see an overview of the work and the quality of our engagement. 
 
The Personalization and Planning Practice is focused on guiding clients through a process to deliver contextually appropriate and personalized experiences. We have broken up the offering by asking four key questions: 

  • How do you understand customers? 
  • How do you understand your content? 
  • How do you build customer interaction models? 
  • How do you define content journeys?  

To answer these questions, there a dozen discreet projects in each category that need to be completed. We have developed very valuable IP and market-leading approaches that place us in the leadership quadrant for this type of work. 
 
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning software tools are coming to market and are going to radically change our business. I’ll write more about this software space in the coming weeks. In short, these software tools are more effective with a broader range of artifacts and data points to consider. Our personalization practice will provide 4 dimensions for modeling various outcomes, which is well beyond what most agencies can provide. If we can take the lead in this market space, we can keep it for the foreseeable future. It’s an opportunity for a huge strategic advantage for Tahzoo. 
 
The Digital Marketing Strategy and Execution Practice are focused on operationalizing the efforts that are a derivative of the first two practice areas. This team will ensure that we provide critical thinking and ideation around motivating human behavior and driving desired outcomes. The systems and models that we build are quite sophisticated, and our clients will depend on us to run these systems with a high degree of expertise and efficiency. We will do the data curation, segmentation, campaign plan, and measurement on behalf of our clients. 
 
We are moving into a new world; more than two-thirds of our pipeline are strategy-led or include strategy as a significant component of the project. I am thrilled to see this manifesting in our business and with our customers. We need to continue to build the bridges and bonds between our teams and ensure that everyone in the company can articulate our value proposition. At the all-hands meeting in August, I will discuss this in more detail; in the meantime, ask lots of questions and attend the brown bag session. 
 
Thanks, 
Brad 

Making a Difference

In many ways, I am thrilled at what we’ve accomplished – but it’s not enough, not nearly enough. I want to build a business that is inspirational, that aspires to change the way business is done and most importantly, is an expression of our core values.

The business should be inspirational in the way that we work together to tackle difficult and challenging problems. This means that we offer bright and motivated minds that proactively provide solutions to our clients, that we all have meaningful and rewarding work. We will be an inspirational company when we inspire our clients to take action… to bet on Tahzoo solutions, that our clients bet their careers on our ability to deliver for them, and that we maintain durable, lasting relationships with our clients.

See, we live in a time of change and during change people need leadership. We can and should be the company that provides this leadership. This isn’t just promoting our ideas through social media or articles written through PR channels; it’s about caring enough about our clients to take the time, to proactively start solving their problems.

I want to dispel you of the notion that inspiration is a stroke of genius or the proverbial light bulb… it’s a way of systematically exceeding our clients and each other’s expectations. Having just spent a couple of days at Disneyland, it’s amazing how much attention is spent on ensuring a “magical experience”. For each of us this is a time to ask, what could we be doing for one another and our clients that would make a difference, a real difference? We can’t expect our clients to take action until we take action… until we build a system that inspires each of us and our clients every day.

Let’s go be great,
Brad

College Hire Program

Hi Everyone,

I am pleased to announce our new college hire program. A special thanks to Chris Barbeau, Don Low and Travis Kuhn for working on this project. We also have available a Powerpoint presentation which outlines the details of the plan – let us know if you’d like a copy.

Our goal is to fill the company with bright young minds, (who are happy of course!!) and make them what we call ‘triple threats’! We are breaking out the candidates into two categories; business consulting and technical consulting. Once on-boarded into a discipline, they will work in three different areas over an 18-month period. At each six-month mark we will make an evaluation of their progress and then move them to the next discipline.

We have selected a number of schools who are targeted near each of our offices. We need volunteers to staff the recruiting booths, assist in the interview process and most importantly, mentor our new employees.

On the low end, we expect to hire an additional 40 people into Tahzoo this year. We’d like to make sure that we are building the next generation of experts and leaders for our company.

In addition to the college hire program, we are going to be rolling out a training program within the Labs and Studios business, specifically designed to broaden the skill sets within the company. Given the focus on billability, everyone needs to have multiple skill sets that can be leveraged on projects. Additionally, we are winning projects that span new categories of technology and marketing programs; while we are great consultants, we can benefit from further training and expertise to be successful in any engagement. If you have non-billable time you should be working with your manager to first find billable work, and then secondly, getting the training you need to address more of the Tahzoo service offering.

I am really excited about the college hire program and the investments that we are going to be making in each of you over the next few years.

Let’s go be great!

Brad

Expertise and Career Growth

 
“Employee engagement is strongly connected to business outcomes essential to an organization’s financial success, such as productivity, profitability and customer engagement. Engaged employees drive the innovation, growth and revenue that their companies need.” – Amy Adkins (Gallup 2015) 

Expertise… 

 “The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen.” – Lee Iacocca 
 
I thought about this quote today because I can feel that we are at the precipice of some big changes in our business; not only are we revitalizing ourselves as a company, refocusing on our core framework, but you could also say that we are in the midst of transforming into our adolescent phase as a company. We are over the immaturity that all businesses experience in the beginning; we have learned a few hard lessons and we are now entering the age of finding our footing and growing with a strong foundation in our values and abilities. With this development as an organization, we must be willing to make changes in the way that we approach our jobs and roles and in helping guide others along with us. I have never been one who settles for less than the best, and this drive keeps me constantly looking towards making improvements in the way that I work with those around me. 
 
This attached document (Skills Acquisition), is an excerpt from one of my favorite books “Mind Over Machine: The Power of Human Intuition and Expertise in the Era of the Computer”. The article/book defines a method for understanding someone’s experience level and how they progress through the learning curve. One of our big initiatives for Q1 of 2017 is a new Goal Setting and Position Expectations form that needs to be completed with each employee and includes a section where you and your manager define your level of expertise with a plan to grow. The skills acquisition paper provides a nice framework for this process. 
 
This framework is also useful for thinking about the systems and processes we’ll need in place to ensure that we can effectively progress ourselves to higher levels of expertise. As a manager or leader in the business (which, believe it or not – you all are) this is also particularly useful to think about the kinds of mistakes employees or teams might make as they are becoming more experienced. It’s important to consider how you’ll teach yourself and your colleagues to act and react in context, without being a slave to rules. Said differently, you must teach them good business judgment, balancing the needs of the client with the needs of the business, and effectively communicating. 
 
It’s important that each of us begin considering how we are going to introduce more people into the business, help them progress in their career, and maintain the Tahzoo culture and values. We should anticipate more mistakes and recognize that junior people will need more structure to maintain the level of quality our clients expect, while more senior people may have habits and practices that will be different from ours. I appreciate everyone’s focus on these initiatives as we mature the Tahzoo business. 
 
Remember, this isn’t just my company – it’s our company – and I hope that you feel the same sense of accomplishment for getting us this far, and the same excitement about the future that I have! 
 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

I Can Feel the Momentum

When I was buying clothing at Nordstrom, we used to have to figure out the right level of inventory for each product by size. So let’s take a men’s V-neck undershirt, size large. If on average, you sell 42 units a week and they are resupplied once a week what is the right inventory level? (Before you answer it’s a trick question).

Turns out that the rate of sale is important but only half the equation, the standard deviation in your rate of sale is equally important. For those of you who are really into math, we can discuss the various methods of calculating a standard deviation. The idea here is that there are volatility and efficiencies that are part of creating an ideal solution. You have to know that some weeks you’ll sell 42 units, some weeks 62 and some weeks 30. If you price your product right, margin minus the cost of inventory.

In a simplified way, the right answer for the right amount of inventory is the average rate of sale plus one standard deviation.

If you’re still reading this DOB then great, let me explain why you should care… We are hiring!!! We have a bow wave of work rolling through the company and we’ve been working hard to make sure we hire the right number of people. The reason I bring this up is that we need your help finding great people for Tahzoo. Referrals are the best candidates for our company, if you think they are “Smart and Happy” then half the interview process is completed. Please be on the lookout for a series of job postings over the next couple of weeks.

I have been emphasizing the need to hire and promote from within Tahzoo. If you see a posting that you’re a good fit for, please through your hat in the ring. I’d like to see our company and our culture be one that is fostered from within.

Tahzoo is doing great, we are blessed with so much opportunity within our accounts in Europe, UK, and the US… I can feel the momentum!

More than ever we need to expand the ambition of our ideas, the breadth of our service offerings, the geographies we are targeting, and the number of great people we work with every day.

The New Tahzoo Worldwide

If we take good care of our clients, then we have the opportunity to continue to work for them and grow our business. As we grow, we have more profits to invest in our business and our people. A healthy, thriving business provides opportunities for all of us. 

With this in mind we’ve worked for the past couple of months on a new organizational structure to support how we service our clients. We are internally organized around four business units: Digital Transformation, Project Work, Outsourced Marketing Operations, and Staffing Support. We also have geographic considerations, the US, UK, and EU, as well as practice areas or Centers Of Excellence (COE). There is no perfect organizational structure to meet every possible dimension, however; I believe this structure coupled with commitment and hard work positions us to meet the needs of our clients and advance the innovation goals of Tahzoo Worldwide. 

For the Digital Transformation and Project Businesses, we have largely divided the delivery teams into three groups: Strategic Delivery, Experience Design, and Technology Services. Strategic Delivery will include the delivery lead, solution definition, and project and program management function. The Experience Design teams include all of the strategic services to support digital transformation, project delivery, and innovation across Tahzoo. Within Technology Services we will be extending the Center of Excellence concept throughout our offerings. The goal of the COE is to ensure that we have standard patterns and practices, training, and career paths for all of our major technology capabilities.  

The principal challenge of Tahzoo WW is to scale and manage our business units on a global basis. Rather than organize our capabilities by geography we have opted for a global approach with the expectation that the leaders of our business will ensure that we continue to grow and deliver as a single organization. For our clients they should experience one Tahzoo, a company with a full range of CX capabilities and offerings dedicated to their success. 

I appreciate the commitment and energy required of everyone to make this transition within the company… Thank you. 

Let’s go be great, 

Brad 

The 6 Thematic or Topical Areas

It was a great week here in Washington D.C. We just completed the planning meetings for launching the new Tahzoo Worldwide organization. Much of the meeting was focused on driving integration across the company and defining success metrics for the remainder of the year.  

During the meeting, we organized the work that needs to be accomplished thematically and then put together a 100 day plan with action items for each category. By no means did we work through all the issues or solve all the problems, however; we did a great job of identifying major areas of concern and putting together a plan that ensure they are resolved. 

After consideration and review, the projects broke up nicely into 6 thematic or topical areas:  

  • Caring for your Employees 
  • Caring for your Customers  
  • Telling the Tahzoo Story 
  • Integrating the new Tahzoo  
  • Executing our Financial Plan 
  • Envisioning the Future 

I was really excited to see the team come together around a common perspective and set of initiatives. It’s critical to me that the leaders in the business agree on what we need to accomplish over the next several months to ensure we build a solid foundation for Tahzoo. Over the next few weeks I’ll provide a more detail about each of the thematic areas and our initiatives, including a timeline for items that have broader organizational impact. 

Let’s go be great! 

Brad