Monday, March 26, 2012

How Much is a Donation Worth?

Last week on the radio, I heard a report comparing how much money the major presidential candidates have raised – how much from PACs and how much from small individual donors (the one-person variety). Apparently Obama has raised as much from individual small donors as Romney has from super PACs. The story went on to focus on comparing each campaign’s number of dollars as a metric for the relative strength of the candidates.
 I think they’re focusing too narrowly – where the dollars come from is far more significant as a measure of relative strength. This obsession with absolute numbers can also happen when evaluating online and social media marketing campaigns: the sheer quantity of hits is assumed to prove success. But the true metric is conversion. You can have a million hits, but if none of them converts to a sale, who cares?
It’s the same with dollars from a super PAC: how many of those will convert to actual votes? The conventional wisdom says that more advertising = more people converted. True up to a point, but I would argue that a dollar donated directly from a person who also has a vote to spend is far more valuable.
When people directly invest their own money in a cause, they are investing philosophically and emotionally. Otherwise their wallets would stay in their pants. I think the dollars raised from individuals is far more indicative of voter sentiment than voting projections extrapolated from an ad spend. If so, Romney’s huge war chest may be less powerful than Santorum’s smaller pile, because the latter is mostly from individuals. And Obama’s may trump them both because it has both quality (small donors) and quantity (most money).
I guess it will come down to a test of whether big-bucks advertising can trump voter investment. Since one influences the other, this will be interesting.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Odds & Ends from My Media Travels


Found this great article about crowdsourcing by Dan Wood on the Forbes site (of all places). Wood believes the concept of crowdsourcing is seriously misunderstood: “. . . in the minds of millions of people, the word crowdsourcing has created an illusion that there is a crowd that solves problems better than individuals.”
Finally, someone has called out crowdsourcing for what it really is. My favorite snippet came at the end:
“Karim R. Lakhani, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, calls what most people refer to as crowdsourcing ‘broadcast search.’ A problem statement is broadcast along with associated incentives, and people with expertise apply their talent to solving the problem. I like the term virtuoso search better. Whatever term we use, let's not call it crowdsourcing and pretend that 10,000 average Joes invent better products than Steve Jobs.”
After all the comments my original post ("Too Old to be a Designer?") here and on the Creative Freelancer blog got almost a year ago, others in the media are catching up. In the 3/19 edition of Newsweek, Rebecca Dana writes about the likes of Warren Buffet  and Paul McCartney, who are both refusing to quit working, and cites the same Barclay’s survey about “never-tirees.” And this was from good old Seth the other day:
Baby boomers continue to redefine our culture, because there's just so many of us, we're used to being the center of attention.
Add into that the fact that we're living much longer and careers are becoming more flexible and it's pretty clear that in just about every cultural respect, fifty year olds are living, acting and looking more like thirty year olds every day.
This changes more than personal financial planning. It changes the marketing of every service and product aimed at consumers--and yet most traditional advertisers are stuck in the mindset that thirty is the end of your chance to find a new customer or build a new brand.
Well said, Seth – you rock.

Monday, March 12, 2012

We Aren't Selling Shoes or Fuzzy Kitties, Folks

On a designers’ forum the other day, a fellow designer had a question about how to avoid endless “let’s try this” requests when a client is presented with a design draft. The question was really about how best to manage the client side of a design process, something many of us learn the hard way. So I gave her the advice I wish someone had given me years ago: 

Expectations have to be clear on both sides, and for that you must have a specific scope of work and a creative brief that have both been approved by the client. These will be your best tools for avoiding the dilemma of open-ended change orders. The purpose of these clarifications is so that you can control the process. It is true that you are working for the client, but once hired and with the above documents in hand, it is your job as a professional to make sure the project proceeds properly. Clients (generally) aren’t equipped to do this – that’s part of what they hire us to do.

A defined scope of work (including a specified number of approval rounds) will allow you to say, “I would be happy to make these changes. However, they will constitute a scope change. Would you like me to give you a quote for the extra work?” Clients often assume that looking at drafts is like buying shoes: they get to try new ones on ad infinitum until “they are happy.” You have to be clear about the difference – part of our job is to avoid wasting time by trying ideas that we know are not going to work, without alienating clients.

A signed-off creative brief will allow you to say, “I understand that the idea of adding a fuzzy kitty to the home page seems appealing. However, according to the goals you approved in the creative brief, this addition would destroy your credibility with your target audience.” That makes them aware that they will be solely responsible for the results of their own bad ideas. When you bring these issues out in the open in a professional way, you will be better able to guide your client to productive decisions.  

As to showing drafts: I NEVER EVER send drafts to clients for them to look at on their own. This is a sure road to disaster. It is absolutely imperative that you walk them through the work, whether in person or on the phone. You must be on hand to explain your thinking and head off any fuzzy-kitty ideas. If I can’t meet in person, I let clients know their draft is ready and set up a phone meeting. I email the pdf 5 minutes before our meeting time. I can then explain why I did what I did in a way that discourages tangents (“What about horses? I want to see a horse!”), and show how it supports the goals in the creative brief. We are both able to ask questions, make suggestions and get/give feedback in real time.  

The main cause of wrong turns and misunderstandings in a design process are the assumptions that fill the void created by a lack of clarity. For designers, that is job one and it begins at home. Nature abhors a vacuum and never more so than when it is caused by poor communication.