Archive for September, 2010
Written in collaboration with Dr. Ralph Finos
In an earlier post, we talked briefly about near-term and long-term forecasting – Why Do We Forecast?
Near-term Forecasting and Planning
In near-term planning we’re trying to be as accurate as possible about the outcome – regardless of how we get there. The premium is on prediction vs. explanation.
“What are my sales for established products likely to be in the next 6 months?”
Or demand pull considerations in the supply chain:
“How many toilet seat covers is Walmart going to need from me in the next 2 weeks?”
This type of forecast enables short-term resource deployment and benchmarks to facilitate near-term decision making “now decisions.” Recent history is a key factor because where you have recently been is likely to be highly correlated with where you will be in the near future. Methods that project from recent tracking data are the most useful. Moving averages and cyclical factors (i.e., seasonality) are important. Theories of market behavior are generally less important (unless you’re forecasting emerging products or markets.
Near-term planning is also vital for long-term planning. If you’re not predicting the near-term effectively, then assumptions in your long-term forecast might be incorrect. Near-term forecasting can serve as a benchmark/hypothesis test for a long-term forecast.
Long-term Forecasting and Planning
In most industries, confident forecasting can typically be accurate for 6-18 months. It should draw on the recent past, but must focus on prediction related to likely customer behavior (i.e., adoption behavior) and market context (i.e., substitute technology, competition, economic factors). As opposed to near-term forecasting, the forecaster must create a theory or set of assumptions about market adoption in the context of value as well as market context (i.e., other products and services).
For example, technology markets are subject to evolution and possible revolution in technology itself that can redraw the landscape of a market – or create entirely new ones. The technology market forecast confidence horizon doesn’t typically go much beyond 12-18 months. Obviously, the more inclusive the market segment being forecasted (i.e. all application software), the more stable and amenable to forecasting a market will be.
However, the interesting forecasting problems (new products, new markets, new technologies – and their interplay) often involve narrow segments as entry points and complex factors that govern adoption, making prediction a challenge. Therefore, any forecast going out 2 years or more requires solid theories of adoption as well as solid metrics that are correlated with adoption allowing the forecaster to create predictive models that lave a longer half-life and are robust, yet flexible.
Useful (i.e., good) forecasts must be:
- Robust enough to enable repeat calibration of core market drivers
- Flexible enough to adapt to new market realities and drivers
These conditions are easier to state than to accomplish. Any forecaster who has created and then validated his or her forecasts against actual events can testify to the challenges.
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If you have set up a Twitter account and tried to build a following, it’s likely you have experienced some level of frustration.
Starting out you can build your following with no limits from Twitter, it’s time consuming, but you can do it with or without software tools to help you. If you’ve had the good fortune to achieve a following of 2,000 you know Twitter squeezes your efforts to a 10% crawl.
Many people seem to get stuck at this point and either give up all together or turn their attention to other tasks giving the Twitter account much less attention.
Given my research background, I pay attention to trends and patterns. I have helped a number of businesses build Twitter followings and a distinct pattern has emerged.
The initial work to build a following can progress rapidly, that is, you can accelerate from 0 to 1,000 followers in 6-8 weeks or less, if you apply a systematic process. Building to the next 1,000 is possible in about the same timeframe. Then the door slams and Twitter controls the flow.
Once you are following 2,000 people your following to follower ratio is 1.1 to 1. Okay that’s the bad news – Twitter has had to control the flow to avoid overcapacity problems (you have probably seen the whale and bird graphic at least once).
Here’s the good news 10% of 2,000 is 200 and 10% of 3,000 is 300 and 10% of 4,000 is 400 – you get the idea. Once you pass through the 2,000 following-bottleneck and reach the 4,000 mark the account will start to accelerate again.
It’s works like the magic of compound interest, which is very powerful. As Albert Einstein said, “Compound Interest is the most powerful force in the Universe.”
Of course this is only the “numbers” side of the equation having a targeted following that you truly engage with is the real goal.
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Recently, I have been exploring the profiles of friends and colleagues to see where people are regarding the use of Social Media (SM). It appears from an extensive, but unscientific exploration most of you are connected through at least one of the major social networks (there are exceptions and you know who you are).
However, it also appears many, if not most, of you are not actively pushing the SM research and marketing envelope. This blog post is one in a series to help you “Engage, Transform, and Advance” your SM presence.
We will explore a number of ways you can put more muscle into your SM presence, but first, let’s think about why you are using SM. It’s important to know your objectives before selecting network platforms.
Of course your likely to create a presence on one or more of the major networks, but there are numerous (and growing) tier–two sites that are likely to be equally important to meeting your objectives – more on that in later postings. Here are a couple of important questions to answer before you plunge into a more active SM posture.
What do you want most from your SM “program?” Are you building personal awareness, promoting your credibility as an expert, creating a sales pipeline, maintaining a loyal following, other?
How will you create credibility and trust – be human to your audience? Keep in mind that SM is about people, not logos.
How will you let down your guard so your audience will let down their guard?
With these questions in mind, let’s explore an important task related to the social media landscape. Probably the single most important task is to review and revise your profile (or in some cases, write one). It doesn’t matter what network you’re using a profile is an essential building block and should be consistent across networks.
Developing a Profile Summary
A profile summary is not a resume, although it may have resume elements in it. It is a statement about you. Profiles should convey two types of information, who you are and what you know. Tell people who you are and what you are interested in doing, that is, the passion you have for one or more endeavors.
The second type of information is what qualifies you as an expert. Talk about your accomplishments and perhaps your ideas for the future.
Use as much space as the networks allow, but break it up into logical sections. If appropriate, separate the information into chunks using:
- Short paragraphs
Always make it easy on the reader to find and digest the information you provide (a good practice in all your writing). Profiles also include information about your work history, education, and other activities – all of which is probably sitting in a resume – use it.
Equally important, profiles tell people how to reach you and include space for websites, blogs, Twitter accounts etc. Use these elements and be sure to personalize the information. If you have a Website don’t be satisfied with the generic “My Company” or “My website.” Personalize it to show the name of your site (e.g., Great_Stuff_Free.net). This is equally useful if you write a blog or have a Twitter account.
You can be highly successful if you take time to develop a great profile and then use SM to pursue your objectives. You won’t be nearly as successful in your attempt to leverage a SM network if your profile is anemic.
P.S. Use a good quality photo on all your profiles – it makes you real!
For help with profile development feel free to contact me.
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Create Email Groups
Experience has shown that one highly effective method of communication is to create and use email groups (Reply to All lists). Include everyone involved in the project on the project communication email. This semi-automates the process of keeping team members informed of progress, decisions, and issues, allowing them to react accordingly.
Even if you don’t think the information is relevant for them at the time, it probably will be. For instance, if a team member is responsible for writing cross tab (banner book) specs, he or she can begin this process as soon as he learns the questionnaire has been finalized. The email communication alerts him or her along with the team members responsible for working on the questionnaire design.
In addition, she or he may learn a few days later from the email chain that the client changed their mind on about one or more questions and revisions to the questionnaire are in progress. The team members can act accordingly with the information communicated through this email or at least know to talk to the team member responsible for the questionnaire development.
Pick up the Phone
This may seem obvious, but too often, we can avoid unhappy situations if someone simply picks up the phone. It could be to check on changes to project priorities, clarify a specific task, address confusion about a deadline, or confirm someone’s vacation plans (which will have an impact on the project).
Whatever the means of communication, it is up to the project manager to keep track of the latest developments and communicate those developments with the appropriate team members and vendors. A good practice is to over communicate – just a little!
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Research dissemination provides an audience with results through reports and presentations designed to help clients assimilate the information as quickly as possible. Graphical formats are emphasized over tabular data and an executive summary is nearly always provided.
However, that is often not enough. Dissemination does not guarantee assimilation and is far removed from action. Remember the purpose of market research is to solve a business problem or provide direction for business initiatives. Simply dropping off the report on the (internal or external) client’s desk does not fulfill that mission.
The research stakeholders will only gain value from the research if they use it and to use it they need to see its relevance to the decisions they make (hence, at a minimum, the need for an executive summary).
The next question is how far should you go? Do you present only results? Should you make inferences and provide implications from the research? What about providing conclusions?
Finally, should you be so bold as to make recommendations? Are the data compelling enough and do you know the business of the executives’ you are presenting to well enough to recommend what the company should do?
These are judgment calls you’ll be faced with, but the one sure thing is you will be better armed to bring insights to your client (whether external or internal) if you implement ideas and lessons discussed throughout this blog. Moreover, you can increase your knowledge by using AtHeath’s Resource Center content and the services offered. www.atheath.com
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