Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Snowball Effect

Let me begin by saying that although the entire Northeast corridor of the United States is on lock down due to severe blizzards in recent days... this blog has nothing to do with the weather. :)
Sitting atop my virtual perch as CEO of Fast Pitch!, I have a unique perspective of the ebb and flow of business activity (particularly small business) happening around the world.With hundreds of thousands of professionals logging into Fast Pitch! on any given day to perform a wide variety of business processes including: networking, writing press releases, creating email marketing campaigns, etc... we're a pretty good barometer for gauging the world's work ethic. Right now, our barometer is showing a disturbing trend - people are working less each passing week.
When we first launched Fast Pitch! a little over four years ago, we were burning the candle at both ends. We worked really hard, all hours of the day, everyday, regardless of whether it was a late Friday afternoon, or the weekend before a major holiday... every waking moment was viewed as an opportunity to attract a new member and capture market share. Looking back, I would say we were a bit naive in those early months as it became apparent that certain days brought diminishing returns.
For example, in 2007 it was safe to assume that the attentiveness of our market (small business professionals), declined by 75% as soon as lunchtime on a Friday rolled around. Remember, in 2007, the recession had not hit yet... credit was plentiful, etc... who could argue with people 'checking out' early on a Friday to start their weekend? As a hungry entrepreneur starving for new business I didn't like the fact that my work week was being forced to end at noon on a Friday, but I understood why it was happening.

Now fast forward to 2010... the recession is in full swing. Small business owners are getting pinched harder than perhaps any other identifiable group. Credit has dried up, people aren't spending, people aren't buying... Heck, people aren't working! The days of long weekends are officially over, right?
Think again...
Not only are people working less... there are some days when they are not showing up at all! Fridays are now the new Saturdays. Mondays... are the new Sundays. The weekend now officially begins on Thursday afternoon. I'm not making this up... Here's my evidence.
Fast Pitch! has a very sophisticated marketing process which includes everything from highly targeted (and timely) email marketing, telemarketing, internal messaging and more. After having marketed to millions of people worldwide for nearly five years now, we know within a few percentage points what our return on any given campaign will be. Everything from how many people will typically open a message, answer a phone, call us back, etc.... all of which are pretty good indicators of how attentive the business world might be at any given moment.
We've sent marketing messages on every imaginable day and time to every conceivable type of person on all four corners of the globe. In other words, we try to capture your attention both when you expect it and when you least expect it.
The results of all of this marketing activity have produced one consistent trend. The work week is now officially fifteen hours long. In other words, the 'window' to capture people's attention lasts for a total of 15 hours and they are Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday between 9AM and 2PM. Efforts to market outside of those times result in diminishing returns the more you deviate from that five hour window on those three days. Planning to send an email newsletter on Friday afternoon... and you're not in the hospitality industry? Don't waste your time.
So why, despite the worst economic downturn since The Great Depression, is the work week continuing to shrink? My theory is that we're witnessing a 'snowball effect'.

Snowball effect is a figurative term for a process that starts from an initial state of small significance and builds upon itself, becoming larger (graver, more serious), and perhaps potentially dangerous or disastrous (a vicious circle, a "spiral of decline").

In other words, the lackadaisical work ethic many people developed when times were good are still in motion - causing everyone else (whether they like it or not) to internalize those same work habits. "If I work 12 hours on a Friday and see no return, I might as well start my weekend at 5PM on Thursday like everyone else"... and so on. This has the formula for disaster written all over it, when those people who want to work more, become frustrated and they themselves essentially 'give up' and conform to those same work habits.
So... what will be the catalyst that changes this trend. Or will our collective work ethic just continue to deteriorate? Time will tell.
One thing I do know... the larger a snowball gets, the harder it is to move.

Bill

An interesting graph showing the decline of the average work week in the United States. Obviously, a 10% unemployment rate (probably closer to 15% if you count under employment) affect the numbers during our current recession. However, during 'good times' the numbers have declined as well.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Make Your Pitch in 140 Characters

Fast Pitch! just added a cool new feature to our profile. It's called the TwitPitch! - and it's a great way for our members to send out a concise message about what makes their business great. Similar in concept to Twitter, the TwitPitch! sits along the top of the profile and allows members to quickly tell the world about their business in 140 characters or less. Additionally, the TwitPitch! can be easily shared across each members Facebook and Twitter accounts - allowing them to quickly tell followers and friends about their business. Each members TwitPitch! can also be changed or updated at any time.

Creating a TwitPitch! is also a great exercise in helping members formulate their 'pitch' and forces them to think creatively about how to grab people's attention. TheTwitPitch! also provides members with another way to add keywords to their profile which will ultimately get indexed and become searchable on Google. This is particularly useful for our Platinum Members who receive our industry leading search optimization service as part of their membership.

To create your TwitPitch! simply login to your profile.

Bill