March 12, 2008

Career Opportunities And Perceived Value

Tell me the last time you observed these titles at a business-to-consumer organization (non-vendors):
  • Vice President of E-Mail Marketing.
  • Sr. Director of Web Analytics.
  • General Manager of Business Intelligence.
  • SVP of Catalog Circulation.
It's interesting that many businesses have an executive in charge of information or technology (CIO or CTO). Many businesses also have pay scales that are very favorable to information technology employees. In other words, an e-mail manager might earn a base salary of $75,000 per year, while a comparably skilled information technology individual might earn $90,000 per year. The information technology individual might have a limited career path, but at least she gets compensated for the unique skill set she offers to her company.

Which brings us to the typical e-mail, catalog circulation, web analytics, SAS/SPSS programmer, data miner, or business intelligence individual.

What is the career path for the web analytics individual using software that doesn't even capture 100% of online sales?

What is the career path for an e-mail manager that is given no budget, but is criticized for generating only $0.09 per e-mail delivered?

What is the career path for the SAS programmer who provides the intelligence that an information technology individual cannot provide, yet is considered a "computer geek" by Sr. Management?

What is the career path for a catalog circulation manager that is criticized by eco-friendly organizations for cramming unsolicited junk mail down the throats of helpless consumers?

In my opinion, there is one common theme across each of the four jobs I described ... perceived value.

The e-mail marketer is a spammer. The web analytics individual measures only one channel, and cannot frequently tie out net sales to finance-based reality. The SAS programmer is a computer geek. The catalog manager is always wrong, why would you mail a catalog that 98% of the people hate, can't you only mail the catalog to customers who will purchase?

Remove the information technology expert from your business, and your order entry system might stop taking orders. That's what "perceived value" is all about.

Stop sending e-mail campaigns, stop sending junk mail, stop creating a report that requires a complex merge of e-mail address and multiple mailing addresses, stop showing that conversion rates are flat, and who cares?

Career opportunities are often based on the perceived value of the individual. I know this is true, I've experienced it. I've been told by leadership that I'm not qualified to do any other job than an analytics-based job.

Conversely, merchants, those who choose product, are perceived to have high value, perceived to be able to lead finance individuals or marketers or information technology experts or call center leadership.

So many of my loyal subscribers are e-mail marketers, catalog circulation experts, web analytics professionals, or business intelligence / data mining wizards. Collectively, we have two problems.
  • We have low perceived value.
  • We do a terrible job of marketing our skills.
Not surprisingly, these two issues are interrelated.

There are three types of employees in the multichannel world.

  • Employees with scarce skills, like the folks in information technology.
  • Employees with leadership potential or those with the ability to "move the needle" on sales. Think CMOs and merchandising executives, as examples ... especially CMOs, folks who either drive a big increase in sales, or are kicked-out within two years.
  • The rest of us.
In order to reap the benefits of career opportunities, "the rest of us" must market ourselves as indispensable individuals. Either we cannot be easily replaced, or we provide such significant value (sales, profit, leadership, consumer insights) to the business that we cannot be ignored, or we must market our value to the rest of the organization to increase our perceived value. Otherwise, we must be at peace with our lot in life.

At this point in time, few promotional opportunities exist within multichannel brands for my readers, causing my readers to switch jobs across brands, or to venture to the vendor side of the equation to find opportunities. It might be time for us to start marketing our abilities, to begin increasing our perceived value, or to actually prove that we are highly valuable.


  1. It seems to me that the individual who understands the behavior and psychology of the company's present and future customers rivals the value of the CEO. And that is the skilled analyst.

    Wait a minute. Shouldn't the CEO know more about his customers than anyone else?

  2. In a publicly traded company, the CEOs job is to increase shareholder value and to do the will of the Board of Directors.

    So one might consider the theoretical question ... would it be better for this person to know more about customers than anybody else, or would it be better for this person to know how to increase shareholder value or do the will of the Board of Directors?

    The blogosphere might argue that by knowing the customer well, shareholder value happens as a consequence. All fun, in theory.

  3. Anonymous6:20 PM

    The most valued database marketers and web analytics professionals I've ever met were with small companies. These scrappy retailers -- privately held, not surprisingly -- were able to build their analytical tools and processes from the ground up. They had no legacy database issues to deal with. They didn't face the sysiphean task of wising up their CEOs to the value of CRM. And these professionals were revered for the results they delivered. They were also somewhat stalled in their careers, because until larger companies with deeper pockets wise up, these colleagues were forced to settle with earning their niche market employers big slices of relatively small pies.

    Will the major, publicly traded players ever wake up? Not a chance, in almost all cases. Instead, they'll eventually be out-competed into has-been status, and the smaller companies will grow to take their places. Only then will these skills be valued. Until then, their abilities are a little like being a skilled yodeler in a church choir. Impressive when done with friends, perhaps, but wasted talent back at the office.

  4. And I spent my entire career at big companies ...


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