Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Drawbacks of CRM

When clients ask us if and how they should get rid of less valuable customers there isn’t an easy answer.  It isn’t always the boost to profitability that it was promoted as, says a study by two Wharton marketing professors, Jagmohan Raju and Z. John Zhang, and Wharton doctoral student Upender Subramanian.  The notion of firing less profitable, costly customers is part of a recent practice called Customer Relationship Management (CRM.)  

Many companies have reviewed their internal data trying to weed out customers who spend little while tying up customer service resources by repeatedly calling for support or returning products.  A business divesting itself of these least profitable customers is supposed to see lowered costs, while maintaining the valuable customers that bring in the bulk of its profit.

However, concentrating a business’ client base into only high-value customers seems to give the advantage to the competition.  Once a competitor sees that the customers have been boiled down to only profitable individuals, they can begin stealing business in earnest, knowing that every turnover will be easy profit.  According to the study, low-value customers provide camouflage, hiding more valuable customers and protecting against the poaching of competitors.  

The study recommends keeping both kinds of customers, but finding ways to use cheaper customer service solutions for customers of lower value, such as encouraging them to use online support or referring them to automated phone systems.  You can read the full article here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How 4Chan Conquered the World

For our readers who have spent enough time on the internet to become involved in its politics, or just long enough to chuckle at the funny pictures, news of the upcoming title Epic Win: How 4chan Conquered the World will be a mixed shock.  Cole Stryker’s book, to be published by The Overlook Press this summer, details one of the most controversial sites on the internet, a place which has grown from a simple image board to the hub of meme culture, internet politics and social movements.  While has often earned a reputation for silly, provocative, or downright disgusting content, there’s no debating that something powerful and important is going on inside their member base.  

Though it is now the world’s second largest BBS, comes from humble roots.  In 2003 it was created by owner Christopher Poole, known on the boards as ‘moot’, as a place to discuss Japanese anime and manga.  Users on the site interact mainly by posting images and comments either as new threads or comments to older posts.  

Perhaps the visual nature of this interaction is what led to some of the internet’s most successful memes, rapidly spreading ideas (think movie quotes that everyone repeats after seeing a film) which commonly take the form of an image overlaid with text, known as an image macro.  These memes replicate throughout the internet, grabbing the kind of popular attention to which the image board’s success might well be attributed.  4chan’s most successful macro, lolcats, has spread so widely that it began to spawn merchandise, including a book of its own.

While many know of 4chan through its hilarious cultural exports, far more are familiar with the site through recent news coverage of its tangential connection to controversial movements such as Project Chanology or the recent activities of internet goliath Anonymous.  It’s no surprise that an image board based on the concept of anonymity was destined to be the one of the birthplaces of internet activism.  However the effectiveness of these organizations, their leaderless, anonymous structure has made quite a splash, eliciting attention by many popular media outlets.  

Rumors and opinions fill the digital crevices.  Some consider 4chan a fun place to hang out.  Others claim it is a leftist site dedicated to swapping child pornography.   “You don’t mess with 4chan/Anonymous” is repeated endlessly with implied shakes of many a virtual head.  But what is 4chan really about?  We contacted one member of Anonymous to give us an insider’s perspective.

“It encompasses a ton of photo media as well as discussion,” says our contact, who prefers to remain anonymous in holding with the spirit of free speech and conventions of the image board.  Our Anon says most of the members, “are people who just enjoy sharing pictures.  There are boards for specific things.  There is /wg/ for those people who enjoy wallpapers.  There is a board for fitness hobbyists.  You have /o/ for the automotive enthusiasts and /hr/ for the high-resolution religious.  I mean /b/,” referring to the site’s most popular board, a mishmash of random images and talk, “is the spirit of 4chan, but it’s not the alpha or the omega.”

Our Anon says that most people are grossly misinformed about 4chan.

“People see 4chan and just assume it’s this cave full of internet bad guys plotting their next heist.  It’s far from that.  Are there people who call for raids on everything and everyone else?  Yes.  Are they doing it all the time?  God no.  The raids and gatherings are few and far between.”

We asked our contact to illuminate the organization which in recent memory has shut down the Westboro Baptist Church, crushed an attempted infiltration by cybersecurity company HBGary, and is tentatively linked by some to the anti-Scientology campaign, Project Chanology.

“Anonymous can't be bought, cannot be reasoned with, nor negociated with,” says our Anon.  “There is no power structure.  Nobody leads.  I would say that the collective gets an idea and it builds.  Sometimes it builds and goes nowhere.  Other times it builds into a glorious crescendo and when it goes off, man, it’s a sight to behold.  It’s thousands working together to accomplish an end.”

Some find the idea of a headless legion wielding so much influence disturbing.  Without a central figure to direct that power, without someone to take responsibility for the group’s actions, what is to stop that faceless council from going beyond activism and retaliation toward chaotic or recklessly behavior?  But our Anon dismisses the idea.

“The only time I ever had reservations about something they’ve done was the Jessi Slaughter thing,” our contact says, referencing an incident where an 11-year-old girl was harassed and had her real name, number, and address spread around on the internet.  “None of it was funny to me really.  I thought the whole thing was kind of stupid. I didn’t want to be a part of that.  Even some of the people who make up Anonymous don’t agree to some of the ends they work for.  But…that’s the good thing about Anonymus, if you don’t agree, you can walk away without having to be pressured into anything you don’t want to be a part of.
“Would they become misguided in the future ? I don't think so. I don't think they'd ever move against anything that I believed in.  I believe in Anonymous.  They're a force for a betterment of our world.”

But 4chan is more than Anonymous, or the controversy or political attention the website garners.  At its heart, 4chan is a board where people with similar interests can gather and exchange images with as much or as little attachment as they desire.

“It's not just evil doers, child pornographers, or boogeymen,” our Anon says in response to claims made in several media outlets.  “It’s everyone and everything.  At any given moment, any given time it’s something everyone can contribute to.”  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cultivating Financial Success

Today’s Client PowerBlast from executive coach, Rich Gee, reminded me that this Thursday is the last day of the first quarter of 2011. I’m sure many people, upon hearing that, thought the same thing I did: how did it happen so quickly?

Just as many of us are preparing our spring gardens, so too must we prepare our financial gardens for the year ahead. Now is the time to ask: are you pruning your APs and asking for better dating from your vendors? Paying bills on time, in order to get better terms for the coming year? Offering discounts to customers who pay early? Reviewing last year’s cash flow statements to foresee potential pitfalls ahead? You have to sow the seeds of financial success today before you can harvest your financial savings tomorrow! Here at Benay, we love to help our clients grow and thrive, so give us a call. We’ll help you tend to your financial garden, so you can spend more time in your actual one!

Sow the seeds of financial success today – with Benay.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Good Fun for a Good Cause

As anyone who has spent a couple of spare hours clicking around the internet knows, it’s rare that you stumble across a site that really engages you, a place where you get stuck in something maddeningly, enjoyably simple.  That’s why we can’t help but share this webpage with all of our readers. is more than a great place to doodle online; the community program is a worthy effort to bring people together and revitalize love and learning of the arts.  Draw On! strives to unite people of all ages through something as simple as drawing, while also fostering new and imaginative ways to draw.  Started in 2006 by The Aldrich, a museum of contemporary art in Ridgefield, Connecticut, Draw On! has been an annual success, attracting more than twenty-five hundred participants to its locations.  

The event is sponsored by several organizations and businesses, including Subway, Marcus Dairy, The Cake Box, and the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance.  It begins tomorrow and runs until April 9th at several locations.  Check out their website for more information or if you like the idea of drawing all over a website as much as we do.

Red All Over

The Literary Group International’s most recent success, Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock— Sammy Hagar’s memoir of his personal journey through the world of music—will be #1 on the New York Times book list next week.  Red gives the inside story of Hagar’s rise from an independent musician writing songs about the things he loved, to the front man of one of the world’s most recognizable bands, and beyond.  

Honest and optimistic, Hagar relates the struggles, troubles, and decisions made as they happened.  But the revelations in Red deal as much with the rock star’s personal decisions and the experiences that have made him the man he became as they do with well-known controversies and his eventual departure from Van Halen.  Red takes readers beyond the bands, to Hagar’s foray into the world of business and the beginnings of his tequila brand Cabo Wabo, his personal life and family.

Red promises to be a continuing success, a must-read for fans of Hagar, Van Halen, rock, or wild times of any kind.