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Charles Heaton- The Fusebox (ch@thefusebox.com) (Leeds, UK)

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Taking Care of E-Business: Lessons in Success in the New Economy from One of the World's Fastest Growing Companies
Taking Care of E-Business: Lessons in Success in the New Economy from One of the World's Fastest Growing Companies
by Thomas M. Siebel
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read and could save you a lot of money., 21 Dec. 2001
The Gist:
In today's highly competitive business environment where pricing has reached commodity status, good quality is a given and operating efficiencies have been largely extracted, Siebel argues that the one remaining competitive advantage and true differentiator open to companies is the ability to consistently deliver exceptional customer service. Siebel goes further by asserting that the need to make the customer the centre of every strategic decision is no longer an option but a "matter of business survival".
Commentary:
Once Siebel has established his "customer is king" premise he goes on to explain how companies can place the customer at the centre of their eBusiness strategy (see definition in Reviewer Views) by applying his "8 essential principals of eBusiness". These are all very customer centric, contain nothing new and are essentially founded on well-established rules of customer engagement. Of more interest to the reader is Siebel's running reality check -executing them within a company and transforming into an bona fide eBusiness is an extremely complicated, painful and difficult mission and not to be undertaken unless a business has cast iron commitment from the board level down.
This is very effectively conveyed though the inclusion of lengthy case studies which examine the development and execution of eBusiness strategies by ten of Siebel's clients - including such global heavyweights as IBM, WorldCom, Marriott, Honeywell, Dow Chemical and Chase. Each business is a market leader within its own sphere and operates a complex business model but all have seemingly achieved the undeniably difficult task of transforming themselves into eBusinesses.
Reviewer Views:
All you need to read is the intro and the last 50 pages. Forget the rest. This is not because it is badly written or lacking insight. Far from it but at the end of the day the book was written to showcase Siebel's software and that is precisely what the bulk of the book does via the 8 principals and case studies.
The intro provides the widest definition of eBusiness I have ever come across which is worth repeating in its entirety - "eBusiness entails the strategic use of information and communication technology (including but not limited to the Internet) to interact with customers, prospects and partners through multiple communication and distribution channels."
In other words, don't limit your thinking to just the Internet (that's eCommerce and yesterday's world) when planning your eBusiness Strategy but consider all points at which (or which could affect) your customer interaction with the business. This includes call centres, direct sales, mobile communications, partners, suppliers, resellers etc. and the need to ensure that all of them are fully integrated so that the customer receives a seamless experience regardless of how he or she chooses to interact with your company.
Part III, entitled "How to become an eBusiness", provides a great road map on how to actually plan your eBusiness strategy, a lot of which needs to take place before you even talk to an applications vendor. It's actually an easy read and could save you a lot of money before pen is committed to paper.


Permission Marketing: Strangers into Friends into Customers
Permission Marketing: Strangers into Friends into Customers
by Seth Godin
Edition: Hardcover

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Recommended, 21 Dec. 2001
The Gist:
People, whether they are at work or home, are subjected to a constant bombardment of direct mail, newspaper ads, periodical ads, radio & TV ads, which are all designed to capture their attention ahead of the competition. Godin argues that most individuals do not have time for this approach known as "interruption marketing", either because they are too busy or because they simply resent the intrusion. Instead, he suggests that a different approach is needed in this time-precious age, especially if companies want to not only gain new customers but more importantly, keep them. The permission marketing technique is the reverse of the volume scatter gun method. By obtaining a potential customer's permission for two-way communication to take place, the company can build strong relationships and, over time, turn people into loyal, long-term customers.
Commentary:
Permission marketing has been around for years in record clubs, airlines and even doctor's surgeries & the church! However, it is now easier to take advantage of the permission techniques Godin highlights in his book, since the use of technology cuts out a lot of costs previously associated with such an approach.
Permission Marketing is best explained by the following example. A company sends a mailer highlighting the products and services it offers. This mailer is designed not to directly sell the product or service but instead invites the customer to call or email to request more company information. Once the customer has made contact, the 'dating' process can start. The brochure that is sent out in response to the request not only informs the customer of products and services but within the process, is designed to get permission to follow up and arrange a meeting. The meeting will give the chance to learn more about the customer's needs (and budgets!). This meeting can then leverage permission for many other contact opportunities and finally not only make a sale but also build a stronger relationship.
Although Seth Godin focuses mainly on marketing to consumers, this shouldn't put you off as the theories can be translated to a B2B environment and there are a few examples of how permission techniques work in business to business marketing. Not only does he provide case studies of companies including American Airlines, AT&T, Levis, McDonald's, AOL and Columbia Record Club, but also a FAQ section and an area entitled "Questions to ask yourself when evaluating any marketing program."
Reviewer Views:
If you read this book -and I suggest that you do- you might have the feeling that all the key messages Godin delivers could be written in a '20 page pocket guide to Permission Marketing'. This is arguably true, although you might be in danger of forgetting a crucial element highlighted throughout the book. Permission Marketing is a process- not a moment. It is a relationship that takes time to build - the customer is in control and one wrong move can end the relationship forever. This is definitely a book worth reading and not just once - you should keep it very close by when planning any marketing campaign. He steers well clear of the marketing jargon and makes it very easy to read.


Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy
Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy
by Carl Shapiro
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for any information goods executive, 21 Dec. 2001
The Gist:
"Technology changes. Economic laws do not." Ignore basic economic principles at your own risk. A must read for any information goods executive involved in the strategic decision making process.
Commentary:
The basic premise of this book is that although a new economic age has dawned whereby information goods - such as software products and online publishing - have replaced industrial goods as the key drivers of world markets, the economic principles that drove the old economy still apply to the new.
Sounds dull - not at all. This is a must read for any ITC strategist. The authors use hundreds of real life examples (from both clicks and mortar businesses) to help explain, on occasions, complex economic concepts and also cite excellent case studies to illustrate how they have been successfully applied in the New Economy. This is the key to the book - it makes the book readable and more importantly, understandable. At the end of each chapter they summarise the lessons learnt in the preceding pages.

The book covers all the main elements of a product release from how to price it; the concept of versioning; managing Intellectual Property Rights; the concept of product lock-in, how to recognise and, more importantly, how to manage lock in, specifically the costs of switching from one product to another; networks and positive feedback; using partnerships to establish a new product or technology and finally evaluating compatibility choices and standardisation.
Reviewer Views:
This is not a book you read straight through in one sitting - use it more like a reference book whenever you need reassurance or guidance during product development or launch. You will re read sections time and time again as you apply the practical lessons to different products or, the same product facing different market pressures.


Rules For Revolutionaries: The Capitalist Manifesto for Creating and Marketing New Products and Services
Rules For Revolutionaries: The Capitalist Manifesto for Creating and Marketing New Products and Services
by Guy Kawasaki
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars He Knows how to make a complex subject interesting & funny!, 21 Dec. 2001
This is my second read of Guy's book. Not because I didn't get it the first time around but because there are elements of Guy's American wit that actually make me laugh; especially if you work in the ICT industry. Not everyone will agree with Guy's approach to product development. I myself have issues on his views on market research and its usefulness. However, if you find yourself having difficulties aligning internal views on what innovative product development is all about you should buy a few copies of this book and spread them about.
A book whose main chapter headings are 'Create like a God', 'Command like a King', and 'Work like a Slave' merits a read and Guy's insight into what it takes to create a revolutionary product, once you get over the Americanisms, are quite inspiring. If you're in ICT product marketing, this book is a must.
The first chapter, Create like a God, takes you through the process of developing revolutionary products and services with some hints on the pitfalls and areas to avoid. The second chapter, Command like a King, comments on the type of individuals required in a company to be able to create revolutionary products and the third chapter, Work like a Slave, covers the components required to succeed.
Some of his concepts - 'don't worry, be crappy' or 'churn,baby,churn' or 'don't let bozosity grind you down' - bring the point home that in this industry we need to start truly innovating again.
In his typical style Guy Kawasaki manages once again to make a complex subject interesting and funny. His style is easy going and his examples, if at times repetitive, give the reader a good idea on how to get on and do something about bringing back innovation to new product development. Refreshing, inspiring, insightful, although at times a bit over the top, in a 'charming' American style.
My one criticism is that sometimes Guy's wit gets in the way of making some fairly serious points and he will make light of some topics which are still very painful for people involved in product development.


Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition
Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition
by Jack Trout
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A warning against forgetting the basic marketing principles., 21 Dec. 2001
The clear message of this book is that the principles of marketing have changed very little over the years, but what has changed is the competitive environment in which we buy and sell products and services. As consumers are faced with increasing choice, businesses are seeking new ways of differentiating their brands. The author strikes a cautionary tale for all companies that forget basic marketing principles.
This book analyses common mistakes such as brand extension and creative advertising and extols common sense marketing to enable brands to achieve or maintain market leadership through differentiation. Although the book is a great read, don't expect to learn anything new - we've heard this all before but, plainly, just aren't listening.
The book relies on recent and not so recent (American) examples of marketing mistakes and successes to underline its main theme - selling difference. In certain instances the new economy is alluded to and incorporated into the author's theory, particularly the role of the Internet in weakening the role of price as a differentiator. The majority of examples are old economy though and many are old favourites - Dell differentiating itself by selling direct, the Coke/Pepsi wars etc.
The book provides a convincing argument for protecting the brand and how to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace, it's easy to read, and a good, solid dose of common sense. However, it is very American in its use of examples and in some instances the cultural differences between the US and the UK cast doubt on the author's recommendations.
For a light, reader friendly reminder of why your business is not doing as well as you think it should - treat this book as a refresher course on marketing differentiation. Sound business sense, but we've read many other books like it and will do so for many years to come.


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