Having already experimented with outsourcing some database work to India, we thought we should give a try to Amazon's Mechanical Turk. From the FAQ page:
"Amazon Mechanical Turk is a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence. The Mechanical Turk service gives businesses access to a diverse, on-demand, scalable workforce and gives workers a selection of thousands of tasks to complete whenever it's convenient.
Amazon Mechanical Turk is based on the idea that there are still many things that human beings can do much more effectively than computers, such as identifying objects in a photo or video, performing data de-duplication, transcribing audio recordings, or researching data details. Traditionally, tasks like this have been accomplished by hiring a large temporary workforce (which is time consuming, expensive, and difficult to scale) or have gone undone."
So I decided to to load up a database project. The project is comprised of thousands of repetitive tasks and some research that anyone with basic business background can accomplish. We get these projects every week and have interns on staff to tackle them. I figured if an intern can do it, I'm sure some stranger a world apart can do it.
I proceeded to loaded the project which consisted of: look at the data, research a piece of the data, post the results. It probably takes 1-2 minutes per piece of data. Getting the project ready was fairly easy using the site's WYSIWYG form builder and data mapping. I posted a price of $0.15 per piece of data researched (in mturk terminology, each task is a Human Intelligence Task, or HIT). For this project there were 1,000 HITs so $150 was available. You hit "Publish" and it is live. 48 hours later, the project was complete. Interestingly, most of the work was completed by the same three people, yet an additional 5 participated in a smaller way. Also, most of the work was done in the middle of the night. The workers were most likely from the other side of the world. Total cost: $150 even and the workers invested 25 hours. That's $6 per hour. Comparitively, this would have taken one of my interns six or seven half days and cost me possibly more than twice as much. It's off-shoring for the masses. It works and it is cheaper, and the networking of multiple people get the tasks done much faster. Still checking on quality, but thus far the random spot check looked good.
That was the Wonder, now for the Ethics. Is what I paid for the work a fair price? If the person is working in India, for instance, the average white collar wage is $2 per hour. In the US, a white collar, non-managerial worker, earns $11 per hour. So I think my $7 per hour is fair, considering cost of living differences and the fact that the workers earned more than they could have working full time for a company. mTurk also gives them the ability to work their own schedule, be entreprenuerial, and in this case make more than they would have otherwise.
A friend asked me what my interns would do now that I off-shored their work. Well, I have some proactive marketing projects that might not have been funded had it not been for this project, so I'll assign it to them. The mturk workers win, my interns get more challenging work, and my company gets additional marketing. I think this is good for everyone.
I'm still not sold on the fair trade aspect of this, although the economics look fair. So as a feel good, I made another kiva.org micro-loan to a woman in Equador starting an egg business. I'm sure she will learn how to market with courage! Kiva is so addictive.
Other than general vicinity and locale to your running out of gas, how much marketing does a gas station really need to do. I can see some of the top company branding (Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Sunoco, and Citgo), does anyone really care who they buy gas from? In many cases the only competition that exists is the station across the street. The direction you're traveling on the road may play more to your decision than the brand. Then there is the price sign. Probably the simplest form of marketing in the world. Logo on top for branding, price on the bottom for value, features in the middle (food, car wash). Food as the product feature? Yes. In fact, Pollan says that the typical gas station today makes half their money selling refined oil for your car and half their money selling refined corn as food products to you. Do you stop for a drink? Dunkin Donuts? Or Shell V-Power premium gas?
btw...The photo to the left was taken today. Yes $1.799 (down $2.30 from 5 months ago). Last week when I was in the Netherlands, I did the liter to gallon conversion and calculated $6.20 per gallon. So no complaining! Most of the disparity globally is due to the difference in taxes between countries. Oil prices, however, are now so intertwined with economics and cost of living, don't expect prices to balance out globally.
Cartoon Credit: Gary Larson
I LOVE reading Lifehacker, Treehugger, Engadget and Wired RSS feeds, but over the years they have migrated from blogs with fantastic posts 8-12 times per day, to massive media sites that publish 30+ posts per day, at least a third of which are drivel. I am currently on a business trip and have not been able to read my feeds for a couple days. It's all baked up. Engadget had almost 180 updates, many of which, btw, were crossposted or duplicate posts on Wired. All in all, I had 1500 posts to read, which I didn't. I couldn't. Just not enough time.
Wasn't the whole point of aggregating good feeds together so that one could sit down without surfing, without having to wade through piles of pages, and having everything at our disposal, organized and ready to read? So much for that. Now it's like recieving 8 major newspapers and being expected to find the 10 articles from the stack that are interesting. When are we going to get a Reader for our Reader?
Call me a geek, but I'm a gamer. Competitive scrabble being one of them. I've played some live tournaments, not many, but I've got more than 2000 registered tournaments on the Internet Scrabble Club and a tournament rating of 1112 (at the moment). Tonight was a great night with a triple spanning bingo JUBILEE for 123 points. For those of you not familiar, a bingo is when you use all 7 letters and get a 50 point bonus. A triple spanning bingo is when your word also covers a red triple square.
For those of you that strive to be a scrabble geek...check out the site that collects photos of bad scrabble hands (letters in your tray). VVTTTUU be damned!
I happen to enjoy poker tournaments and am a math geek poker player, which is a different breed. Part of winning in poker is understanding the equity of your hand. I'll bypass all the math and explain it in layman's terms. Basically it is the value of your hand as it relates to the investment you have made in it. I believe this applies to demand gen as well.
Most marketers do not spend enough time looking at the investment they make at each phase of the funnel. They look at stages and lead scoring, but are they looking at the value of a lead and a demand generation/lead nurturing program? As a lead moves through the process, it picks up overall investment value - call it "lead equity" (am I coining a phrase?). My question(s) to marketers is this: there are several techniques, services and sources that will bypass, or I should say, expedite, these higher levels of the lead nurturing process, is each stage of that process increasing the lead equity? Is each investment adding the expected value (EV) at each stage? Is the equity in a lead when it hits your opportunity pipeline higher with one method than another?
Services such as outsourced lead gen, appointment setting, lead brokering, or an inside sales team can provide one lead with high equity versus a hundred leads with little equity. We need to asses the value of the overall investment of each technique to the lead equity. Personally, I see a disproportionate investment in the highest levels of the funnel, which can result in low equity leads.
So back to poker. When we find a technique that provides a higher value than others, go all in!
Continued in part 2
I'm on the the flight back from SFO after attending Sales 2.0 conference. It was great to put faces to names of folks I've been colleagues with by phone and email. Even better was to find out that my company is well on it's way to Sales 2.0. As defined by Selling Power, Sales 2.0 is “Sales 2.0 brings together customer-focused methodologies and productivity-enhancing technologies that transform selling from an art to a science. Sales 2.0 relies on a repeatable, collaborative, and customer-enabled process that runs through the sales and marketing organization, resulting in improved productivity, predictable ROI, and superior performance.”
What do you do to Sales 2.0?
How cool is the latest iPhone TV ad for UrbanSpoon. Free app where you simply shake your iPhone like shaking dice, and it rattles and tumbles like a slot machine and spits out a restaurant. It can use your GPS location and you can refine it by cuisine, neighborhood or price.
And then there's Shazam. Hear a song on the radio or on TV, quick, hold up your iPhone and it will identify the song for you. Thought I would test it with an arcane song an it pulled it up.
So both apps are wonderful and intuitive, but the real Hall of Famers...the marketing folks at apple, their agency and the creative team. 30 second spots on TV, showing the coolness and simplicity of the application. If they could measure click throughs of ads to downloads, I'm sure the relationship is huge. I personally have downloaded 4 apps I've seen on TV. 3 of them within 30 seconds of seeing the ad. Brilliant!
And of course, kudos to past Hall of Famers, the iPhone designers and the iPhone software developers.
<-- This recent entry on one of me and my daughter Rebecca's hall of fame sites, the live art project PostSecret, reminded me of a post I've been wanting to write.
How do I stay on top of what needs to be done for the company, the house, my family, for? A few years ago I started using the GTD system that became popular as a result of the book Getting Things Done by David Allen . The technorati have flocked to the GTD system because of its simplicity, it's ability to adapt to any lifestyle, and the fact that most geeks have tons going on at once. There is plenty of information online, a great place to start is the Lifehacker interview with Merlin Mann, the author of 43 Folders blog. The article links to all sorts of online resources.
To my point, since 80%-90% of my life comes and goes through email (more if I count the emails I send to myself), I use the firefox addon GTDinbox which uses gmail to provide a GTD skin on your life. Two key points to remember as it pertains to being successful with any organizational system:
Take it Easy - always do the easy stuff first. The emails where the response cycle goes: reply, "yes", send take about 5 seconds and they are done. Then hit archive or delete and never worry about it again. It feels good to accomplish something and it feels satisfying that you are moving on.
Life Goes On - Don't forget to keep your personal goals, to dos, dreams and desires organized as well. As much as that job, blog, and your friends keep you ticking all day. Give some priority to yourself. Accomplishing something for you keeps you feeling good so you can accomplish things for others or a greater good. An example from my GTDinbox is a folder called Food Ideas. When I stumble upon a recipe, food article, cooking technique or other foodie crumb that must be tried, I file it in there and make a point of cycling through the folder a couple times per week. Working with food relaxes me and it usually means a shared meal with others...one of life's greatest pleasures. What better feeling of getting something done for yourself could there be?
Don't Slip - being unorganized and overwhelmed is like an addiction, and like an addiction, once you have kicked it, you can never slip up. If you do. If you go even a few days without getting back on track, you will spiral out of control. This happened to me this week as a result of an overwhelming business issue that redirected my efforts and now I have an inbox that is loaded with unfilled, uncategorized and unfinished items. It will take me hours to get back on track as opposed to the seconds it would have taken me to stay on track. Mea Culpa!