September 27, 2012

Paying For The Best

Some of you are football fans, so you know the back story behind this image.

We seldom get the opportunity to measure the impact of having "the best" employees against having "average" employees.  In the past three weeks, the National Football League gave us a rare opportunity to measure the difference.

It's a big difference.

I recall being at Eddie Bauer, in the mid-late 1990.  Comp store sales were -20%, month-after-month-after-month.  We had a research department within the marketing team.  This department noted that customers were dissatisfied with the knowledge of our in-store employees.  Coincidentally, we made a conscious decision a year earlier to not offer average to above-average wages.  I recall an Executive saying "our average employee is now 30 years old, it's as if our wage structure only attracts young employees".

Translation:  "It's as if our wage structure only attracts average employees."

Our willingness to accept "average" is killing us.

We accept average orders ... those generated via 30% off plus free shipping (yes, I got that email today from a company we all know ... too bad that I paid 20% off plus free shipping for an order two weeks ago, how stupid of me).

We outsource our database "to the cloud".  Yay cloud!

We outsource the task of answering a telephone.

We transfer our knowledge of our business to "big data" instead of working hard to learn how our business works ourselves.

We outsource the labor of assembling garments.

We demand that vendors give us their "best deal".

We sell our average knowledge as "best practices".

We outsource our customer base to co-ops, so that they can sell our customers to our competitors.

We outsource the hard work of acquiring a new customer to Google.

We use a free tool like Google Analytics instead of investing in the infrastructure necessary to get real answers to real questions, and then we wonder why our poorly paid web analytics professional can't accurately explain why conversion rates are only 4.668% today, instead of 4.812% last year at this time.

We only gain marginal marketing knowledge, then we declare that every other form of marketing is "dead".  Like Facebook, or F-commerce.  Or Twitter.  Or Blogs.  Or YouTube.  Or Content.  Or Mobile.  Or Search.  Or QR codes.  Or Widgets.  Or Podcasts.  Or Email.  Or Multichannel.  Or Omnichannel.  It's all the same thing.  We choose to obtain average knowledge in a niche and then try to steamroll anybody in disagreement.

Can you explain why we are so willing to lavish Google or Abacus or Facebook with our hard-earned dollars, but we won't pay our own employees a credible wage to do excellent work?  We all work with or for companies that happily pay Google+Abacus+Facebook millions of dollars a year, then freeze employee salaries, and get frustrated when they "can't hire qualified candidates".

Our willingness to replace greatness with cheaper, "average" solutions needs to change.

You wonder if anybody wants to be great anymore?

It costs money to be great.  

The NFL taught us that you cannot plug in average referees as a replacement for great referees.  

There's a lesson to be learned here.

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