Category: business

Mail is not Aus Post’s competency (anymore)

Australia Post has prompted an imminent increase in the price of mail delivery services, as it looks at mounting losses incurred in this business division. In contrast, the parcel business is booming thanks to e-commerce.

Understanding the mail delivery business as a distribution category is to my view the source of the problem. To amplify the commercial crisis we, as individuals and businesses, are all trying to hand-write less and use less paper. We don’t perceive high enough value (or low enough cost) in the physical delivery of mail.

I think this is because mail is rather an information and communications endeavor. The value of mail does not reside on the physical mail unit delivery but as conduit that triggers subsequent actions (a contract is signed; a bill is paid, etc.).

This is the thinking that would be supporting the launch behind initiatives like Australia Post’s own Digital Mailbox and a private company called Digital Post which closed earlier in the year, given the low levels of clients’ take up. Easier said than done, huh?

The parcel division certainly has the wind on their backs, but I would speculate that Aus Post is making a mozza delivering our shoes, dresses, headsets, etc.; because it has unrivalled distribution / delivery expertise. Whether it is fully unlocked is another issue.

This comparative advantage cannot be used in the mail delivery business; hence the huge gap in performance.

So what is Australia Post to do?

– Divest from businesses on which it does not have a comparative advantage. Mail delivery is one of them (counterintuitive I know but trust me on that one )
– Going even deeper into parcel delivery, investing in logistics tech, exploring crowdsourced delivery, etc.
– Sell mail delivery to a specialist in data, communications and workflow; yep even the physical part. They will be in the best position to migrate mail online faster that Aust Post trying to upskill.

Come to think of it, I reckon Telstra could be in a good spot to transform mail. Dropbox also comes to mind.

Gotta runaustralia post box

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Seek’s price hike – A (contrarian’s?) view

You must have also been following the thread re. Seek raising their prices and how unfair that is in the context of the recruitment industry being in uncertain times, etc.

The main charge: Seek is making a ton of money!

The bastards!

Well, there are a few reasons why Seek’s destiny (read profitability) is not the same as that of the recruitment agencies:

1/. Most, if not all, of Seek advertisers are in the recruitment business. But Seek is not; Seek is in the online advertising vertical. And because of their business model, they’re now driving an NPAT that is 10 times that of the commercially viable agencies (don’t quote me to the cent; I am not running an analyst briefing). There are drastically different economics driving each industry.

2/. Seek’s goods are price-inelastic, which means that changes in price levels will not dramatically change customers’ demand for it. Recruiters as well as hiring companies that need people cannot do anything else other than continue posting jobs. Conversely, companies that are not hiring will not advertise for roles no matter how affordable a job posting is. So why not up the price? If I were a shareholder I would have cheering for a 19% rise, not 9%.

The assumption here is that there is either a belief or hard data that indicates that Seek still gives placeable candidates to its advertisers. Knowing that you’re keen on price-inelastic goods, you better be damn sure that they return to you what is expected of them.

3/. I reckon demonizing Seek is significantly less effective than voting with your feet. Perhaps now (better late than never) is the time to think about what else do you do as an agency or employer to get the talent you need and reduce your dependence on a single source of people.

What if you invest half of you what you spend on Seek on building other sourcing channels? This is what we did when we swapped newspapers for jobs, right?

My clients are all recruitment agencies; none of the guys and gals I have spoken to are overly worried about Seek’s price increase. What they are thinking is: how do continue ensuring my business model works? How do I keep my profitability intact, or how can I better it? Do I need to diversify? Move out of Aus?

Which are the right questions to ask.

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Is Recruitment an Inferior Product?

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Happy 2012!

This got prompted by Peter Martin’s post in relation to inferior goods.

Inferior goods are defined as those for which demand decreases as their users’ disposable income increases. He mentions cask wine and International Roast coffee as a couple of retail/consumer examples.

Is your recruitment product an inferior good, based on the definition above?

When our clients are better off financially, do they seek out your services or do they seek to replace you with what they perceive is a superior product (DIY recruitment, a more reputable agency, employer branding consultants)?

Yes, there are many moving parts to offer a one true answer. This is an intrinsic limitation of the neoclassical economic model which relies a lot on the Ceteris Paribus (all other variables remaining equal) which never happens in real life.

However is it worthwhile asking this question as recruitment service providers, don’t you think?

inferior_goods
Looking forward to being in touch during 2012

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Recruitment off the back of a truck

This sign is usually parked near the intersection of River and Shirley roads in Crows Nest; during peak traffic hours, the area is a nightmare to drive through, if you can drive through. I live half a mile down from where this ad is.

I am not sure when you last time paid attention to a You-Haul advertisement pushing a jobs website, let alone remembering to check it out once you got home. Seriously, I am just glad to get out of the bumper-to-bumper nightmare without getting too stuck.

Pretty dumb to spend money on this, huh?

Well, the ad is parked in a spot that is pretty much equidistant to The Royal North Shore and Mater Hospitals; surruounding them there is an entire ecosystem of labs, surgeries, private practices, physio centers, you name it.

My neighbour is a nurse. At the small primary school my kids go to, there are at least 1/2 dozen midwives who live in the area. They surely drive around River Rd all-the-time.

I’ve a had look at the advertised website. It is a bit of a substandard online experience, compared to best/better practice. It does what it needs to do as a jobs site, however.

Question is: What would you say is the candidate response due to the ad by the side of the road? I am not expecting huge flows of CV’s, but possibly high relevance levels and material volumes of applicants, given their geo hyper-targeting.

I will aim to get in touch with the agency guys and see if I can complete the picture. Just remember: you can have a niche campaign on wheels if you want to, outside Uni’s (graduates), coming out of Pyrmont (digital, IT), etc.

Have a good evening.

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LinkedIn, Facebook and the Chinese Market Fallacy

Over the past few months I have seen Facebook based apps/platforms (BranchOut, Talent.me, Monster’s BeKnown to name the ones I have signed up for and been using/testing) being touted as serious competition to LinkedIn.

The core reasons these and other Facebook-based services are being given a good chance of success against LinkedIn is not their technology prowess or unique business-commercial model; rather they are positively viewed by pundits due to the fact that they are hosted on Facebook, the largest social network at 750 million users (plus).

It is certainly possible that these FB-based systems do have great systems or unique value propositions for its users. These however seem to only come second to the “fishing on the biggest pond” advantage.

There are a number of reasons as to why I am sceptic as to this argument. Mainly, I am reminded of how China was viewed as a market a decade (or perhaps more) ago. I clearly recall many sales, marketing and business development presentations introducing China as a market with 1.3 billion “consumers” (which is as you know their entire population, more or less).

Closer inspection, of course, showed the fallacy of counting every Chinese national as a consumer without recognising their purchasing power, whether they lived in rural areas, etc. The rise of the middle class in China is certainly bridging the gap but it is still necessary to look deeper to understand they real size of the market for specific products or services.

The Chinese Market (size) fallacy reminds me of the volume advantage of the Facebook-based applications better-than-LinkedIn chances of succeeding. Even if these platforms were to grow large, recruiters know well that volume does not automatically imply quality (which drives candidate place-ability).

I am certainly not prepared to write off LinkedIn on the basis on the volumes argument. I’d love for other companies to continue innovating and making it easier for people to find jobs and for recruitment professionals to add more value to their employers/customers. I think this battle will be fought on the basis of benefits and value. I certainly hope so.

Come on, be social :)

Second Degree Land

InMapsWith Google, I found like I never had before
With Blogger, I published like I never had before;
With LinkedIn, I networked like I had never before;
With Twitter I discovered like I never had before;
With Facebook I played like I never had before;
I am not sure what I am doing on G+ yet…

I posted more or less the same lines to G+ a few weeks back; fact is I am not using it regularly and there is no immediate or apparent reason to go to it in a hurry.

But this is not about Plus; it’s about me reaching 1000 connections on LinkedIn which, as you well know, has no intrinsic value. It is also about a couple of articles on the rise of LinkedIn and its impact on human/real connections:

– Rick Bookstaber’s “Ultimately LinkedIn Will Make Your ‘Weak Links’ Less Valuable”
“The continuing devaluation of LinkedIn connections” by Ross Dawson

These pieces are not comparable straight away in as much as they are not addressing the same issue. Bookstaber’s post centers around network theory and how weak links need to remain ‘weak’ in order for societies to flourish and develop (whilst LinkedIn might be doing totally the opposite).

Ross’ article is about the bastardisation of the LinkedIn connection as more “strangers” approach you to link-in simply because -as per the system’s features- this is the only way to get in contact with a member. As a contrast, he references Facebook, where strangers can message you and you can “sus-out” people without a prior connection commitment.

The point of convergence for the articles was reaching the 1K connections mark, which prompted me to reflect on what happened to my way of doing business since joining LinkedIn. Some insights and personal experiences follow:

– I think I have done well in not connecting with every man and his dog just for the sake of increasing reach. Weak first degree connections that have no opportunity to strengthen are very much like those conference attendees whose business cards we hoard but whose face or pitch you cannot recall. You cannot help them and they cannot help you.

– Strong first degree connections off the system as well as those nourished in it after the initial contact have been extremely positive for repeat business. LinkedIn has proven to be an effective CRM; then again I don’t have thousands of clients or lots of staff that demand highly coordinated relationship processes.

– Almost every new customer I signed up is (or was at the time) a second degree connection linked to a strong first degree connection. At the same time, there is a huge chunk of second degree connections which are, to-date, strangers; however, more often than not, I have enough information to work out what their business needs and priorities might be. So, you know where my marketing efforts go.

– Third degree connections is uncharted territory; every now and then, I see little archipelagos (members who I know or can connect off the system) but they are rare. LinkedIn Signal might change that, but I am not a heavy user yet.

– Throughout the five 1/2 years of going with the biz, my marketing expenditure has been negligible. You might say I could be more/really successful if I had spent money. I think that if I had decided to have marketed more, I would have done more of the same (e.g. blogging more, increased participation on Groups, more presentations, videos, etc.) which is a resource with a cost but still imply no material disbursements of dollars.

– My cold calls on LinkedIn – inMails, connection requests via Groups – have had about a 30% success rate at the most. Success here is understood as having the chance at strengthening a relationship, so that 30% is looking not too hot, is it. I don’t believe the conduit was the culprit; rather, it was my inability to sell the connection request well enough.

About 10 years ago, a recruitment ‘big-wig’ told me something along the lines of “Jorge, you will never be able to accumulate the amount of business cards I have on my Rolodex”.

I am not exactly sure how he did business, but one thing LinkedIn has enabled me to do is to check thousands of ever-changing Rolodexes of people that I am not even directly related to. My future clients, employers, colleagues, employees are – more likely than not – living right now in second degree land.

Come on, be social :)