May 30, 2008

Great Moments In Database Marketing #5: Free Friday

If you are a database marketer, one who specializes on answering questions using SPSS/SAS/SQL, you've met up face-to-face with the concept of the "time crunch".

You begin your work day with a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. By 8:43am, your day has gone sideways. Elsie in Customer Service wants you to query the customer records of an individual who is upset that she no longer receives e-mail campaigns. The angry VP down the hall wants you to count how many customers responded to his promotion using a specific discount code last Wednesday. The earnest search marketer wants you to calculate how many customers visiting your site with a specific keyword place subsequent orders.

Before you know it, you spend your entire day writing queries for folks who do not have the skills necessary to query a database. If you go down this path, you lose your identify. You are no longer a valuable employee --- instead, you become a hybridized version of software.

Worse, you spend almost no time working on strategic issues. Everything you do is calibrated toward answering random "point in time" questions.

How do you fix this problem?

You don't!

But you can do something to mitigate the problem. I called it "Free Friday".

The idea isn't a new one. In 1996 at Eddie Bauer, I was stuck in a rut similar to the one I mentioned earlier. So I declared Friday to be "Free Friday". I would not answer any business question on Friday ... ANY Friday! Friday was "my time", time to research strategic issues and obtuse problems others didn't find important.

There was a price to pay for this freedom. I had to work forty hours a week Monday - Thursday to meet the needs of my co-workers. But then Friday was all mine.

Almost every key strategy that we employed in catalog marketing in 1998 - 2000 came from the "Free Friday" days of 1996 - 1997. Multichannel Forensics are almost entirely the result of "Free Friday". Our new store scoring algorithm and cannibalization metrics were the result of "Free Friday". Understanding online cannibalization was the result of "Free Friday". Interestingly, none of these topics were requested by co-workers or Sr. Management. They came from having the time to think clearly, to research ideas, to freely explore concepts.

Consider the concept of "Free Friday" in your work environment.