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Don't Put It in Writing
Never has "know your audience" resonated so much.
For the rest of the December 2006 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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Here in the United States we have a number of freedoms for which to be grateful. High on the list is freedom of the press, without which I'd have to annoy people in person. Everybody with something to say has the right to say it, even if they have to self-publish to do it. However, even great ideas are garbage if they're not fully thought out, and in CRM that thinking must include the needs and desires of the audience. The latest buzzwords are cocreation of value, but I think the creators of the following examples haven't heard them yet. When items that threaten our sanity make it into print, I have to use my own freedom to point them out. As a model citizen, I can do no less.
  • Number one: The New York Times asks, "Are you losing sleep over the constant decision-making involved in running your business? How would you like to unwind with a good mystery--and learn business tactics at the same time?" The perfect way to combine these activities (according to the author) is with Framed! Solve an Intriguing Mystery and Master How to Make Smart Choices, by Dr. Hari Singh, chairman of the economics department at the Seidman College of Business, Grand Valley State University, in Grand Rapids, MI. Okay, I haven't read the book, so I can't say if this really works or not, but honestly, does the Agatha Christie approach to business management really have a place in this world? Anybody who reads a newspaper, or even just Dilbert, already knows there are a limited number of reasons for business snafus: laziness, ignorance, stupidity, greed, and fear. Sometimes lust is involved, but these five reasons are the usual suspects. When you need to make a decision, just allow for them and mitigate the ones that look most damaging. When something's already gone wrong, locate the laziest, dumbest, greediest, or most insecure person involved and lean on him until he fesses up. We don't need a book for this.
  • Number two: Here's a quote from a recent press release (really): "There's a new online women's lifestyle magazine and it's raising eyebrows. That's because it's the first magazine tailored to each week of a woman's monthly cycle. Yes, 'that' cycle. In each issue, Four Weeks Magazine (FWM) recommends foods, products, destinations, and DIY projects based on the moods a woman's hormones have her feeling during each week of her monthly cycle. There's also a hormone horoscope that forecasts what a woman's month will be like based on her hormones."
    Did we learn nothing from the magazine boom of the early 1990s, when there were titles for runners, women runners, left-footed runners, bikers who ride along with runners, and every combination thereof? Women's magazines are already a fragmented bunch, and the online mag space is not yet big enough for more subdivision. As a man I know how dangerous the ground I'm about to tread on is, but FWM's just forcing the issue. A whole family of conversations I'm not allowed to engage in are now delivered to my friends and colleagues' inboxes and browsers. But can I ask if those messages were estrogen-influenced? Not if I like breathing, I can't. These two ideas seem based on incomplete consideration of the audience and its needs. Writing a book about business decisions in the form of a murder mystery is dead clever (pun fully intended), and Dr. Singh is obviously a smart fellow. But mystery readers, fluff business-advice readers, and hard business-topic readers are three different groups, and somebody looking for one probably doesn't want the other two. The editors and publishers of FWM may have some valid, interesting content in their Web mag, but most women I know don't like to think about their menstrual cycles, much less read articles about how to optimize their lives around them. Maybe if someone wrote a murder mystery whose plot advanced in time to a business executive's menstrual cycle, they'd have something. As it is, I'll stick to Dilbert. Contact Senior Editor Marshall Lager at mlager@destinationCRM.com.
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