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Posts Tagged ‘Theo Lynn’

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – some links to free social media metric tools

In Business Education, DCU Business School, Digital Marketing, MBS in Marketing, MSc in Business Management, MSc in E-commerce, Uncategorized on April 21, 2011 at 11:33 am

“In physical science the first essential step in the direction of learning any subject is to find principles of numerical reckoning and practicable methods for measuring some quality connected with it. I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of Science, whatever the matter may be.”[PLA, vol. 1, “Electrical Units of Measurement”, 1883-05-03]

As the semester at DCU Business School comes to an end, I find myself with marginally more time and have decided to refocus again on sharing some nuggets in the long form. This particular article will be a work in progress and so I apologise in advance for the “list” nature of this and that it will be expanded and polished over time. NOTE: I have excluded the big three search engines as a tool because you should be using these anyhow.

As Lord Kelvin said, to measure is to know. There is an ongoing debate on whether you can calculate the ROI on social media – I don’t particularly understand the perspective that you can’t – if there is an action, it can be measured. Once you accept it can be measured, then the next question might be whether it is feasible (economically, technically, ethically etc) to do so. Then once you have some measurements, how do you interpret this data. This blog discusses some free tools that you may be able to derive some value from.

A good starting point is David Berkowitz’ (@dberkowitz) list on “100 Ways to Measure Social Media”. David has also made his presentation to the PMA available. I like this presentation (the list is embedded) as he contextualises his thinking.

My interest and focus is increasingly around understanding how business re-orient from the demo-graph to the social graph and understanding network theories is essential. I like Dan Halgin and Stephen Bogatti’s paper on Network Theorizing.If you accept this re-orientation, you need to rethink your marketing and customer engagement strategy dramatically – in many respects it requires getting to know your customers on a much more deeper level and finding a point on the social graph that you can intersect or levers for influence. This is not really something new. Historically, this is how we always did business – people would ask friends, families, neighbours, authority figures for recommendations on people based on their centrality within a community, their social activity and their connectivity or network. Today, we have many different types of network – in the real world and the virtual and what it means to be connected to someone means different things in each network or does it? Is your Twitter network the same as your Facebook one or your LinkedIn one or your FourSquare Friends or your Contacts list on your phone or even your Christmas Card list ? How much influence do you have on these networks? What does it mean when your “friends” don’t “like” you? Being a “friend” used to be hard but now it is just complicated.

Visualizing your social network or the social network of your target customer is a good first step. There used to be some neat free tools around like Agna and now LinkedIn is looking at this, in a relatively basic way, using InMaps. Wikipedia have a good page on Social Network Analysis software. Understanding the network topography is only a start. Who are these people?  Who has influence? Well, there emerging popular players in the social media universe are Klout (Klout have an app – sociofluence but some influence interpretation reports seem inconsistent) and Peer Index. I like both for different reasons. Klout is easy to use and can be used to craft and refine your personal and institutional brand. They have made a pretty good stab at categorising social media users (and in this context Facebook and Twitter users initially) and provide a lot of data points that can be used for marketing purposes. I like Peer Index because it allows you to create peer groups and compare them against activity, authority and audience and therefore allows quick visualization of influence. When looking at these profiles, I look at the score and see what’s driving them. If it is very facebook driven, you might ask whether the person’s user’s influence is driven by personal social activity. Another piece of data to help establish they type of influence the target has, is their topic analysis – does it reflect personal casual interests or personal professional interests. Both can be useful for marketing purposes but may be interpreted differently for employment purposes. There are a couple of other similar tools like Grader (Grader offer tools to rank you on blogs, twitter, facebook, foursquare etc etc) and Twitalyzer. While there seems to be some correlation between Klout and Peer IndexGrader  is often a mystery to me and I don’t really understand the utility of the foursquare grader. Another snapshot tool is Twitter Search and OpenBook – the former allows you search all twitter feeds and the latter all facebook accounts with public settings -you may get an insight in to what people are really saying about you. This is best used with keyword analysis via Google.

Sentiment Analysis seems to the be one of buzzword bingo winners of recent times. I’m a big fan of the sector and have tried Radian6, Scout Labs and others but these are expensive for a small to medium sized business. I believe people feel have a more positive sentiment to positive people and indeed the people you want to be associated and are more likely to help you are generally those of a positive outlook. However, people who are unhappy or negative often have a problem that you may be able to solve and they also represent opportunities. Twitrratr is a quick snapshot of the twitter sentiment surrounding a brand, product, person or topic based on analysis of positive and negative words (links to words sourced from Jim Sterne).

Some other twitter tools which may be useful to look at are Tweetreach and Twunfollow. The free Tweetreach  tools give you a snapshot of the last 50 tweets of  user and provides you with analysis of reach (by users and impressions), tweet type and the contributors to reach. While many people focus on the size of their audience, few monitor who is unfollowing them. Unfollows may be interpreted as failed attempts to engage – these people have decided to follow you because of a message and then decided to unfollow you, why? Understanding the unfollow motivation may provide an insight in to your messaging style and how you might refine communication. For free, Twunfollow provides you with a 7-day analysis and trending graph for both follower and follower growth and then lists unfollows, follows and deleted followers (eg they may have been deleted by themselves or for spamming). Each unfollow entry includes how long they had been following you from. My students have recently been messing around with Twalue and Twength (although I may have first (re)tweeted this. Twalue puts a monetary value on your twitter account and twength measures your average twitter length. The former isn’t really useful without comparative data and then I think the way the valuation is done could be perceived negatively. The latter may have value in that long tweets may not be retweeted or when retweeted are truncated and therefore the message is impaired. So Twength may be useful for refining a factor that impacts on amplification.

A note on blogs – blogging platforms come with a variety of good analytical tools.  These are largely covered in David Berkowitz’ list but it is worthwhile looking at Jason Stamper’s  Blog Value Index and Avinash Kaushik’s Blog Metrics: Six Recommendations For Measuring Your Success.

One observation which may be useful is that success on one social network does not necessarily translate to other social networks – a blogger may not transition to microblogs and have the same impact. Similarly, the number of followers does not equate to influence.

Other reading? I liked Jim Sterne‘s book, Social Media Metrics and his blog. Why? It had lots of stuff I had seen elsewhere but bundled them together nicely in to a customer lifecycle structure. It was also a fast and easy read! I also really like Gary Arndt’s blog post on Klout vs PeerIndex, mostly because he has engaged the executives from Klout and Peer Index via comments and there are some great insights in these comments.

Please feel free to leave comments and suggest some sites I may have forgotten or need to check out.

It’s hip to be square but is FourSquare ready for Irish businesses?

In Business Education, DCU Business School, Digital Marketing, Foursquare, Uncategorized on November 10, 2010 at 5:08 pm

FourSquare Logo

I have been humming and hawing about FourSquare for the best part of a year now. Why so much hype? I originally tried it under some assumed identity wayback after SXSW but quickly realized no one else was using it in Ireland so the experience was severely limited. Have things changed? Is it any use for Irish businesses?

A fortnight ago, I decided to revisit FourSquare but with a specific goal. How long would it take me to break the Top 10 users in Dublin in one week period? The answer is nine days to be No. 5 in the whole of Dublin. What does this mean? Well, as it turns out, not very much but the experience was not without learning and I will share some of the general opportunities (and challenges) of using FourSquare in Ireland in this blog. I will keep some of the better business ideas to myself though!

In life, you come in to the world with families. FourSquare is a bit more brutal. You start off with no family and more importantly, no “friends”! Yes, like Facebook, FourSquare abuse the f-word liberally. So what is it? I am still not entirely sure. It is like a cross between a social network, a SatNav system and a game (if you were fond of Panini Sticker books as a child then you love this!). Using your mobile phone, FourSquare pinpoints your position and enables you to share your location with your friends and share messages and tips with them, earning you points per logging location-based activities. For transparency, I used the free FourSquare App for the iPhone 4 and I found it both intuitive and, dare I say it, addictive.

 

My FourSquare Profile on the Apple iPhone 4

My FourSquare Profile on the Apple iPhone 4

Basically, users can do a number of things on FourSquare:

  • Add friends: FourSquare searches through your contacts and allows you search FourSquare and other social networks to inivite “friends”
  • Check-in: FourSquare locates you on a map and provides a list of nearby venues or places that users have geo-tagged (added to FourSquare). You can check-in to these places thereby notifying FourSquare and your friends of your location.
  • Shout: A “Shout” is the FourSquare equivalent of a tweet or update – the unfortunate use of the word “Shout” is offputting for Shouters and Shoutees.
  • Earn Points: You earn points for your check-in behaviour. These are city-specific and you can compare yourself to your friends and other users in your city. The top scores reset every Sunday night at midnight.
  • Be Crowned Mayor: If you check in to a place more than anyone else, you can be crowned Mayor but you can lose your mayorship too.
  • Earn Badges: your usage behaviour can also earn you badges (remember those Panini Stickers) which you collect e.g. Newbie (first check-in), Photogenic (checking in to three locations with photo booths) or Supermayor (holding ten mayorships at once). There is even a site for those interested in collecting FourSquare Badges – www.4squarebadges.com
  • Add Places: you can add and geotag venues or locations not on FourSquare (and get extra points).
  • Leave Tips: you can leave tips associated with locations for other users to see.
  • Add To Do Items: You can add To-Do items recommended by others to your To-Do List which is permanently available to you.

It takes awhile to get used to FourSquare and working out what works and what doesn’t. For example, you can accumulate a lot of points using “drive by checking” – i.e. checking in as you drive-by rather than enter a venue. This works better on public transport and is not recommended for those driving!!!! If you think that planning in advance will help you on your drive-by attempt, it might but you need to make sure you refresh your location as close as possible to the venue otherwise FourSquare will look at the disparity between the last refresh and the location and if too great, will check you in but refuse to give you points. If your phone, thinks your 250 metres down the road (where you refreshed) and you are actually in front of the venue, FourSquare assumes your phone is correct. Similarly, FourSquare will look at the frequency of your check-ins and may disallow rapid fire check-ins too.

FourSquare Dublin Leaderboard, 9 November 2010, 2306

FourSquare Dublin Leaderboard, 9 November 2010, 2306

How did I get to being No. 5 in Dublin? Well, firstly and I am not competitive (well maybe a bit), I would have been higher but didn’t realize that my points had been reset when I went to Cork last Friday losing me a whole day of check-ins. The trick is adding new places and checking in frequently – what is known as “oversharing”. Do this and you will be top of the pile. Your significant other will hate you and possibly leave you but you will be the top dawg! The exercise was not without merit; in one week, I:

  • Made 35 “friends” (only 5 could be classified really as conventional friends)
  • Checked in 200 times
  • Became Mayor 11 times including Mayor of my house, garden, the boat in my neighbour’s garden but also Bewleys Hotel (Drive By – well, I stopped outside it), and DCU Business School (where I work! This may be a surprise to the Dean)
  • Earned 10 badges including SuperMayor, Crunked, OverShare and I’m on a Boat
  • Left 7 tips (5 of which are genuinely useful)
  • Found 1 restaurant for dinner (Cafe Mexicana, Cork – recommended)

I know, impressive.

What can Irish businesses learn from my FourSquare experience?

1. Be patient, it’s free

FourSquare is still at an early stage of adoption in Ireland. Not a lot of people using it and not a lot of businesses but proximity based social networks and marketing are here and will develop. FourSquare will be in the mix and it’s free so if anything, it is worthwhile trialling things on. Even in my small experiment, I know others started using it because of my invites, to see what I was doing but also to compete with me!

2. Add your place

It takes no time at all to add your place. If you do nothing else, this may attract one customer for less than 3 minutes work. Again it costs nothing. Add a description and as much information as possible. If you have multiple sites, remember to do all sites. It may also be a good idea to register any sales agents or partners who sell your products or represent you throughout the country/world.

3. Add a Tip

Add some tips about your business or a related sector. Make sure it is valuable in some way to the user population. Tips can swing both ways – people leave positive tips and warn users of possible negative experiences. For example, during my experiment my wife and our youngest child (aged 9 months) visited the Marks and Spencers Rooftop Terrace for a coffee and dessert. We had a largely negative experience – they brought M&S Cola instead of Diet Coke (a huge crime in Theoworld) and didn’t bring over a babychair despite one being clearly available for over 15 minutes. Now M&S tried to correct my situation and gave use a freebie but nonetheless I tweeted this but also placed a FourSquare Tip which will be there for some time, one would imagine.

Can you get rid of a Tip? Don’t despair M&S. Yes, you can. Two ways come to mind. Befriend the tipster and ask them to remove it or email FourSquare with a Tip Removal Request and they will consider it.

4. Decide whether you want/need to be King of the Castle

You need to decide whether you are comfortable with someone else being the Mayor of your business or venue. I can understand how this could be uncomfortable is someone is Mayor of your home and your business is no different, even employees being Mayor over managers may be uncomfortable. On the other hand, allowing employees or regular customers to be Mayor may be a nice way to recognize them in a small way.

The good news is that you have options. If you would like to have control of the Mayorship of your venue, you can Claim your Venue by registering with FourSquare as a business at http://foursquare.com/businesses/. It’s free and gives you control of your venue but also additional features like Specials (see 7 below), Statistics (See 10 below) and marketing collateral (see 7 below).

FourSquare for Business

FourSquare for Business. The right column lists various Irish business offers.

5. Reward your Mayor

You can reward regular customers (or more correctly visitors) by giving them some special discount or prize if they provide evidence that they are the current Mayor. They need only show you their FourSquare profile (and you can check this by looking up your venue on FourSquare). This can be done easily using conventional marketing (e.g. a poster) or creating a Special (see 7 below). If you are a registered business with FourSquare, they will provide you with marketing collateral support.

Check In Here Window Cling

6. Shout

Shouting is the FourSquare equivalent of tweeting. You can Shout via your phone, the FourSquare website or other social networking tools with FourSquare API integration. I use Hootsuite and integrating FourSquare was literally 3-4 clicks and I could monitor friends but also broadcast messages in a single instance to all my social networks including FourSquare.

7. Add a Special

Business users on FourSquare can access additional tools to attract, engage, reward and track customers. These include:

  • Mayor Specials: unlocked only by the Mayor of your venue.
  • Check-in Specials: unlocked when a user checks in to your venue a certain number of times.
  • Frequency-based Specials: are unlocked every X check-ins.
  • Wildcard Specials: always unlocked, but your staff has to verify some extra conditions before awarding the Special.

Again, these are free. But what I really like is that they combine relevancy, immediacy and location and in that way they are somewhat similar to Groupon.  The consumer has control – it is pretty much permission-based.

8. Add an “Add to my FourSquare” button

The “Add to my FourSquare” button is an image that you put on your website etc which adds a Place or Tip to a reader’s FourSquare To-Do List. Again, it’s easy and free. I think this could be used to great effect in PR activities by asking reviewers or journalists to embed the code in to their online articles or references. It’s simple, free and effective. You can find details on how to add the button at http://support.foursquare.com/entries/265950-how-do-i-embed-the-add-to-my-foursquare-button-on-my-site.

9. Create a Custom Badge

There are loads of different badges. Increasingly, FourSquare addicts are focusing more and more on specialist or elite badges. You should not underestimate how addictive collecting badges can become! I did.

Should you create a custom badge? Well, yes, if you think FourSquare users will be attracted to the offer. So two big factors – the value being transferred and its match with FourSquare user needs.

How do you go about creating a custom badge? I have identified three ways. The first is to suggest a badge to FourSquare at Suggest a Badge! Success is rare. You need to be quirky, relatively commercially obtuse and generous with your idea i.e. it needs to benefit FourSquare users generally and not you specifically.

Tarantino Badge from SXSW

Second, FourSquare seems to create custom badges for “Strategic Partners” or “Strategic Events”. Examples of strategic partners include Wall Street Journal, Bravo, Michelin Guides etc. SXSW would be a good example of a Strategic Event. In both instances, the partner and event needs to align clearly with the FourSquare user community and brand identity. Who are they? Look at the profile of smartphone/GPS-enbled phone users.

Finally, I have identified at least one company, Osnapz, who claim to offer custom badges for not only FourSquare but Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. I have never used them. Engage with caution.

10. Monitor your “friends” and statistics

A question I always ask about social networks is – What can I learn about consumer behaviour from the user behaviour on the social network? Well, looking at my own FourSquare data, I can tell a lot about my travel history and the different places that I stopped and in some instances visited commercial outlets. However, I have the advantage of first hand experience – I know what was a drive-by check-in and what was an actual commercial opportunity. Notwithstanding this, one could also analyse the timestamps and derive rules from these. Nonetheless, the travel data could be used for informing conventional marketing e.g. billboard advertising etc. It is also easy to see the types of brands and retail outlets I visit. Where I spend a lot of time etc.

For businesses, FourSquare provide a free statistics tool, FourSquare Analytics, which provides lots of interesting data to inform your FourSquare decisions but also your general marketing e.g.:

  • most recent visitors
  • most frequent visitors
  • the time of day people check in
  • total number of unique visitors
  • histogram of check-ins per day
  • gender breakdown of customers
  • portion of FourSquare check-ins broadcast to Twitter and Facebook

Note: FourSquare Analytics doesn’t support multiple venues but it’s not bad for a free tool.

11. Act Ethically, Act Transparently

I bring this up with reluctance but I do think there are some important ethical considerations. On my short experiment, I used FourSquare to locate a restaurant in Cork, in this case, Café Mexicana (I have no hesitation recommending them). We refreshed FourSquare and saw it there and decided to see whether any tables were free. As we entered the threshold of the restaurant, a Tip popped up from one of my “friends”, a well known digital marketing professional and prolific social networkers, asking us to consider going to another restaurant in the same area. For me, this was the FourSquare equivalent of having a Maitre D or waiter from one restaurant waiting at the door of Café Mexicana to steal me away or poach me and bring me to another restaurant. Why? Either:

(a) It was a genuine Tip. Mobile phone GPS is not the accurate and the Tipster was offering a useful tip which inadvertently is displayed when checking in anywhere in that area.

OR

(b) It was a masked message. The Tipster is being paid, in cash or kind, to promote the restaurant.

In the first instance, while the Tipster is not at fault, what I call the “good neighbour” rule might apply. Would a good neighbour encourage such a thing? In the second instance, not only does the “good neighbour” rule apply but the Tipster may be entering a blurry area too. Should they, for example, indicate that it is a promotional tip like an informercial? Effectively a paid placement. The first is permission-based marketing, to some extent. The second is stealth-based.

On a related note, if you are using FourSquare as a business – tell people that you are using it to promote your business and for marketing purposes. Then it is up to them.

12. Please Rob Me

This is not a request but a warning. When FourSquare first came out, one wag set up a site called Please Rob Me so that people would engage with FourSquare and other location-based services responsibly. By broadcasting your location, you are also broadcasting your absence.

Take care. Buy a good alarm.

Where will our sales leaders come from?

In Business Education, DCU Business School, Dublin City University, Entrepreneurship, Ireland, Masters Education, Sales, Theo Lynn on September 26, 2010 at 11:30 am

Last week, the stigma of “sales” was confirmed to be alive and well to my dismay. Of 150 new postgraduates, only a couple would admit to having considered a career in sales. To a certain audience, “sales” is not “cool” or for the matter worthy of “academic attention.” And yet at the crux of any business, if there are no sales, there is no business.

My interest in sales education really started following my experience in Educational Multimedia Group in the late nineties and early noughties. I was then and remain now convinced that sales can be studied academically and indeed is worthy of such study. On joining DCU Business School, I retained this interest and began looking at the area in more detail. At that time, GrowingCo had just surveyed 218 executives in the Chicago area.  They found:

  • 38% of mid-market organizations (defined as having greater than $2.5 million in annual revenues) lack internal agreement on the role of marketing
  • 85% of sales forces have never been exposed to their companies’ marketing strategy or marketing plans.

The survey emphasised the negative impact of poor coordination of sales and marketing activities and to some degree highlighted the difference between the functions. Marketing and sales are intrinsically linked and the success of a sales effort is impacted heavily by the marketing effort – therefore incentives should be aligned. Interestingly in other surveys on sales management perception, one finds that senior management typically view their sales team performance as less than perfect. In Forum Corporation’s survey of 111 senior sales executives in 96 major corporations across 17 industries around the world, the average grade was 7 out of 10 or a C- in this context (although this could be a first class honours in Ireland!). Superior sales forces had no single differentiator – they performed better across the full spectrum of management, process and skills. A 2004 Accenture survey found 56% of 178 executives saw their salesforce performance as average, worse than normal or catastrophic.

Soon after, in 2006, the Harvard Business Review published a special double issue on “Sales” which served to highlight the dearth of academic research and highlight the area of sales management.  This is not the first time academia has sought to highlight this problem, but merely the most high profile. As far back as 1979, the enigma of the study of sales management was recognised – selling costs account for the largest share of marketing expenditure and yet is one of the weakest areas of academic research (Bagozzi, 1979).

Things have not changed much. You rarely find robust dedicated modules let alone programmes on sales or sales strategy in business schools. And I would be surprised where such modules are delivered, faculty either deliver them or if they do, have any real practical and sustained experience in selling at an operational or more importantly a strategic level. Donaldson (1998) summarises the problems of studying sales management as

  1. Traditionally, the emphasis in sales management is on implementation and tactical operations rather than strategic planning and policy, which has been the prerogative of marketing.
  2. The difficulty of isolating the sales response function and its causes. Many factors other than selling effort affect sales response.
  3. A myopic view that behavioural relationships and interactions in selling are not amenable to classification or variables are impossible to measure.
  4. Many principles of sales organisation, deployment and motivation are based on “how to “ principles, some of which are difficult to assess or understand, for example how to overcome objections. Much of the data are highly specific and anecdotal.
  5. The terrain on which operations take place is continually changing (territories, personnel, customers).
  6. Much of the input on sales management issues comes from disparate areas of research, behavioural sciences, operations research and economics.
  7. Much study and evidence is US-based and these findings in empricial research do not remain intact across the Atlantic.

In fairness to HBR, since 2006 they have published on the subject regularly however has the wider business education system followed this lead? Do primary and secondary schools encourage students to pursue a career in sales? If they do, what university programmes can they take? Is there now an abundance of postgraduate Masters programmes for the sales leader? Unfortunately not.

While few business postgraduates, and specifically MBAs, might value a sales position as their post-MBA career entry point,  in practice, good CEOs place an emphasis on spending time in the field with the sales force, view sales teams as strategic resources and understand that sales is critical to their personal career and their organisation’s success. Sales literally is where the money is…..but marketing sounds better to postgrads and….parents.

A couple of years ago, one of my postgrads and I surveyed a small group of students and sales professionals on their perceptions of sales as a career choice. Unsurprisingly, sales was not the most attractive career but for those interested, it was seen as a career that was potentially well paid and where earnings were very related to effort. Yes for sales professionals, one of the main reasons for the choice of a career in sales was that it didn’t require one to work weekends. Pay and control (whether related to effort or creativity) remained important but flexibility more so. These are probably not career attributes we “sell” in school or as parents for our future workforce.

Let’s face facts – it can be a brutal job. It is probably the most accountable job there is – you literally cannot hide from the numbers. Are we developing a generation of business graduates afraid of such brutal accountability?

In today’s post-growth economy, sales should be a huge focus. However, the investment in sales versus other market supports seems comparatively small. In many of the business networks, there are often experienced accounting professionals offering advice to SMEs to control costs and management cashflow, and this is very important, but there are few experienced sales professionals offering advice on how to grow sales.  And they’re not in academia either. And maybe this is the problem.

We need vision not just in R&D-based innovation but across all organisational processes. We want Ireland to be centre for excellence in bio-tech, ICT, financial services and many other sectors. Who is going to sell these products and services?Sales generates taxes. Ireland could be a global centre for excellence in sales.  If we aren’t going to be, someone else will. And that will be to our detriment.

PS – we now do deliver strategic sales workshops and personal selling modules in DCU Business School covering areas such as channel selection, sales models and process, tendering, selling tools, sales competencies, staff selection and sales team structure, rewards and incentive design etc etc. These are delivered by the Marketing Group.

Irish Blogs

Selecting an Internet Business Model – Reflections on the Blurry Line between Internet Business Models and Strategy

In Advertising, Business Education, Business Models, Business Plans, DCU Business School, Dublin City University, E-commerce, eBay, Elearning, Entrepreneurship, GrooveShark, Groupon, Internet, iTunes, Microsoft Xbox, Netflix, Salesforce.com, Spotify, Subscription, Subsidy, Theo Lynn, Transaction, Two Sided Networks, World of Warcraft on September 18, 2010 at 11:32 am

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend a two days with my colleague, Dr. Laurent Muzellec, who is currently teaching in ESSCA while on sabbatical from DCU Business School. Laurent had asked me to give a guest lecture on internet business models to some of his ESSCA taking a course on “Web Business Models and Strategy”. Laurent has been involved with ESSCA for a few years and indeed his Lipdub exercise from a previous class there has gone on to epic proportions on YouTube and is now a best practice case of student marketing for higher education – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pw7t4f-ZV3E.

ESSCA, Paris

ESSCA, Paris

The topic was a curious one. As Laurent and I discussed it over dinner last Wednesday, it became apparent that much of what we know refer to as internet business models are influenced by concepts previously applied in the strategy domain – network effects (see Eisenmann et al for strategies for two sided networks), lock-in, switching costs, long tail (power laws), cost leadership, differentiation (and by extension, the economics domain) etc. As we discussed various perspectives and articles, it became apparent the line between internet business models and strategy is increasingly blurry. Should we define internet business models in the context of how a business creates, captures and delivers value or how it generates profits (implying revenue generation and cost management)? The former would seem to bleed in to strategy – after all many companies have the same business model but achieve different levels of success. I left Laurent’s apartment, very late, with my mind in flux to what I should present.

Luckily, Paris is the ideal place for burning the midnight oil…literally. I reviewed some old presentations and articles and found that many of the articles Laurent and I had discussed, although recent in academic terms, were clearly out of date already – they did not foresee the rapid rise and adoption of social networking and the increasing ubiquity of computing, bandwidth and storage. It is easy to forget that Google and Facebook are still relatively recent phenomena. However, the business models hadn’t changed as fundamental in the last 2-3 years as I had first thought – it was more that the adoptions weightings had. The core Internet models are still – transaction, subscription and subsidy models and you can find them everywhere and in particular in the content sector e.g. videogames (gamestop, world of warcraft, farmville) and music (iTunes, Spotify, GrooveShark).

Transactions are still the bread and butter of many of the big players – eBay, Amazon, iTunes although there are new flavours e.g. Groupon. As well as network effects, it seems to me innovation in transaction models over the last couple of years has related to assurance models. Central to eBay is its rating system and trust network which provides assurance on the provenance of merchants; to some extent PayPal provides assurance for both merchants and buyers on transactions. iTunes provides a technological assurance through FairPlay by limiting use of tracks on defined number of devices. Groupon provides a broker-based assurance by making sure merchants honour deals provided the minimum threshold is achieved. Interesting, microtransactions (where transactions are measured in cents not dollars) still have not caught on; although one might argue iTunes and indeed AdWords and other advertising transactions epitomise this model.

Salesforce.com remains the poster boy of enterprise subscription models, and in particular Software as a Service. Its achievement in reaching over $1bn in revenues is to be lauded. There is no doubt their business model is a benchmark for now and the future but for whom. Salesforce’ customer base is very specific – salespeople and their support staff turn over regularly, often work at home or on the road, need up to date data at all times etc etc. Employees in HR or Accouniting do not have the same profile. Nonetheless, many companies are trying to adapt their traditional packaged software model to SaaS. Earlier in the summer, IDC forecast that less than 15 percent of net-new software firms coming to market would ship a packaged CD product and by 2014, about 34 percent of all new business software purchases would be delivered via SaaS, representing 14.5% of worldwide software spending. But the licensed/packaged software market hasn’t gone away – its still worth $300bn+ and many large and small companies alike are still uncomfortable with cloud based services. Why? Well, the larger software companies are still making a lot of money from packaged products and the transition to cloud based subscriptions has to be managed carefully. Subscription models get rid of the need for built-in obsolescence but also change the focus from repeat orders and upgrades to managing churn (or reducing non-renewal rates). They also reduce upfront licensing fees, customisation and service level fees as the customers move from a perpetual to a time-based subscription model. A wholesale change from packaged perpetual software licenses to annual subscriptions would reduce short-term revenues per customer. Lower revenues impacts earnings; earnings impact share price. SaaS means a lot of change from being product-focussed to customer-focussed, short-term revenues to long-term revenues, average revenue per customer to average revenue per user etc etc. But SaaS isn’t the only subscription derivative – e-learning companies have used rental models before Internet Delivery (see SkillSoft nee Smartforce nee CBT Group) and Netflix is doing an admirable job with DVDs. People tend to forget that their mobile service, their digital TV service and many other services using digital networks are “Internet” business models.

For me, subsidy-based models are the most interesting. Advertising dominates this class of business model. This remains primarily a B2C model – there is little evidence of enterprise acceptance of advertising-backed software and there remains policy issues in relation to advertising/sponsorship based models for education and other public sector sales. However, for those with the time, financial and technical resources, it is possible to fund your business with advertising. I, personally, also think this is a perfectly acceptable way to fund access to software particularly where no other funding is available e.g. in developing countries. However,  selling advertising services (such as Facebook Ads and Google Adwords) is different than funding your business through advertising. But advertising isn’t the only form of subsidy – in the public sector, government subsidises commercial software – and in the NGO sector, foundations, governments and other agencies subsidise various initiatives including open education resources etc. It should be noted a few years ago, we assumed that there would be consolidation in digital advertising platforms and thus advertising-supported business models and choice would be less complex.  The rapid adoption of social networking sites and services has fragmented  – Facebook ads, LinkedIn Direct Ads and others compete with Microsoft Bing Advertising, Yahoo Advertising, and Google Adwords for advertising dollars while Twitter and others generate traffic for free. Selecting your advertising platform is getting more complicated but managing campaigns is more complex still. The number of Internet businesses that can generate enough traffic to sustain a business of any scale remains limited.  This does not mean it is not happening, sites like Grooveshark, seem to be making advertising-funded services work for the music sector.

So how do you pick one? It largely depends on your market and how they perceive key elements of any given business model and again these lie in conventional business academic literature – elasticity, price, awareness, customer type etc. For example, enterprise customers know and understand transaction and licensing-based business models – they are familiar, they know the conditions, the quality and service expectations, and know the procurement dance (discounts for user volume, end of month and end of quarter pressure etc) and they control their data and uptime. They are comfortable with doing business this way. Businesses providing software funded by advertising introduce more questions than answers for enterprise buyers – will the advertising be appropriate? will it distract employees? what are the conditions and level of support (if it is “free”)? Individual users are happy to deal with this ambiguity, enterprise customers are not. Subscription-based models and in particular, the SaaS model play the middle ground. It can be argued that enterprise customers (and individuals) get enterprise software at lower cost, better service, less technical headaches with terms, conditions and procurement process that they know. They get a lot; they need to just give some trust….not the easiest thing to do even at the best of times.

Can you blend them? Yes, and this can be a source of competitive advantage. Microsoft have blended different models in their games business. You effectively license an XBOX and can then buy or subscribe to software through XBOX-Live Marketplace etc. There are free games too. Similarly I note Spotify allows you access some services with ads, a no-ads subscription service and a service where you can purchase MP3s for download and use outside of Spotify. Indeed, the Spotify model, may in time, challenge iTunes and be adopted by other media creators and aggregators; it provides a straightforward framework that addresses all consumer preferences. But this depends on their capacity to negotiate with the media rights owners worldwide (and not territory by territory) and defend against Apple at the same time.

So where does strategy come in to it? Well you can replicate any business model but this does not business success make. You still have to find a way of satisfying unfulfilled (or unknown) needs of a given market segment better than the incumbents, profitably and ideally uniquely. And that is the trick – profitably and uniquely. Whether it is one, two or each of operational effectiveness, customer targeting or innovation, successful companies have to do something better than the competition.  With Internet business models, the same rules of marketing, economics, finance and strategy largely apply – segmentation, targeting, differentiation etc, etc, etc, but the successful companies move fast and tweak continuously and that is critical. They tweak digital rights management, delivery efficiency, payment options, payment process etc. The more things are different, the more they stay the same….just accelerated and more-and-more slightly left of centre.

Oh yeah, what about “free” business models? They don’t truly exist – someone has to pay.
Irish Blogs

Is Ireland ready for Groupon? Online collective buying on the Emerald Isle

In Boards Deals, Business Education, Business Models, BuyWithMe, Collective Buying, Digital Marketing, Dublin City University, E-commerce, Group Buying, Groupon, ICAP Media, Ireland, LivingSocial, MyCityDeal, O2 Treats, Pigsback, StealTheDeal, Uncategorized, VaVaVouch, Wowcher on September 8, 2010 at 5:35 pm

In February this year, a group of us looked at setting up a groupon clone for the Irish market. Following some research, we established that there were opportunities for an online collective buying and group discount service, but as a group we weren’t the ones to exploit them – or at least, not together. Notwithstanding this, the experience offered some valuable insights in to the collective buying model and the importance of immediacy and relevancy, some of which I will share here.

Tuangou is a chinese word that roughly translates as “group buying” or “store mobbing” and relates to the phenomenon of groups of Chinese shoppers congregating at once at a store and haggling for a group discount. A consumer-driven flash mob. (Check out Paula C’s presentation on SlideShare for a brief history of online group buying)

Mercata - A First Generation Collective Buying Site

Mercata - A First Generation Collective Buying Site

The first phase of online group buying sites emerged in the dotcom boom but failed for a variety of reasons:

  • it takes time to organise buying groups
  • discounts needed to be exclusive
  • people needed to have accessible social networks
Groupon - the Second Generation Collective Buying Category Leader

Groupon - the Second Generation Collective Buying Category Leader

The second generation of group buying sites addressed these issues by introducing immediacy and relevancy. Sites, led by Groupon, created demand by building a business model based on immediacy and relevancy. They offered deep, exclusive, time-based collective discounts targetting specific segments and narrow geographic areas. For example, 68% of Groupon’s users were in the 18-34 age bracket, highly education (80% had graduated from university), single (55%) and women (77%). The offers were focussed on large  urban areas. Buywithme has similar demographics – young educated professional women. Discounts were targetted (e.g. dining, health and beauty, fitness etc) deep (50%-75%), exclusive and were only activated if a minimum number of subscribers took up the deal. Typically only 1-2 group discounts offered per day. If a certain number of people sign up for the offer, then the deal becomes available to all; if the predetermined minimum is not met, no one gets the deal that day. The intermediary, Groupon, markets the deal and assures that the deal will happen receiving a commission, on average 22%, from the merchant.  The deals are truly viral – they are extremely spreadworthy due to the heavy discounts and restricted timeframe for decisions. Email, SMS and social networking enabled groups of friends to form groups quickly to ensure the deal happened.  This is a great business model – everybody is happy.

Vendors Customers
  • Guaranteed quantity of customers
  • Fast customer base acquisition
  • Low-cost, low-risk positive exposure
  • High word-of-mouth referral rates
  • High rate of repeat business
  • Deeper discounts than usual
  • Shared experience and membership of a social network
  • Unique offers

The key challenges for the broker, the Groupon clone, is to recruit subscribers and merchants. Subscribers are not that easy – the business model hinges on registration of not only the user details but also their credit card. Merchants are somewhat easier particularly if they are in businesses that may have excess capacity to fill and a cost base that allows deep discounts. What does a deal look like? Here are some examples with the minimum number to activate the deal and actual deal take-up in brackets:

  • $20 Paintball Outing With Randolf Paintball [20/759]
  • Truffle Workshop at Taste of Chocolate [45/1,114]
  • $24 for 24 day pass to drop-in classes at Healthworks fitness [24/3,997]
  • $10 for $20 Worth of Vintage Threads, Costumes, and New Clothes From The Garment District [10/1,334]
  • $35 for $70 Worth of Nutritious Pre-Assembled Meal Kits From Healthy Habits Kitchen [35/815]
  • $30 for a Sushi-Making Class at Sea to You Sushi [30/2,200]
  • $49 for One-Month Membership and One Beginners Class at MetroRock Indoor Climbing [49/1,162]
  • $49 for a Haircut, Blow Dry, and $60 Toward Any Waxing or Skin Services at Amaci Salon [20/2,465]
  • $20 for One-Month Membership and Two Personal Training Sessions at Fitcorp ($189 Value) [20/699]
  • $20 for $50 Worth of Italian Cuisine and Drinks at G’Vanni’s Ristorante [20/2,456]
  • $35 for $75 Worth of Steakhouse Cuisine at the Oak Room [20/943]
  • $20 for $50 Worth of Italian Cuisine and Drinks at G’Vanni’s Ristorante [30/1,248]
  • $20 Football Ticket to Boston College vs. North Carolina on November 21 ($37 Value) [15/862]
  • $30 for a Regular Membership to The Brattle Theatre, Plus Three Bonus Tickets ($104 Value) [45/2,000]
  • $15 for $30 Worth of Casual Fine Cuisine and Cocktails at 88 Wharf Riverfront Grill [149/706]
  • $45 for Lift Ticket at Bretton Woods Ski Area ($74 Value)  [45/2,000]
  • $149 Getaway to the Omni Mount Washington Resort [149/706]
  • $15 for $30 of Tasty Tapas and Cocktails at Tasca [15/2,067]
  • $40 for Acupuncture, Personal Training, or Massage at Joint Ventures (Up to $115 Value) [40/887]

As you can see these deals can be very successful bring in several thousand dollars worth of business. Obviously some businesses work better than others. For example, meal deals work because they are low value amount and groups of people can easily agree to go to one location and therefore subscribe to a deal. I also think there is a lot of value for multi-site retail chains however only if they have barcode or other technologies to manage duplicate submissions in real time or near real-time to avoid the same coupon being submitted in two geographically-disparate stores.

Groupon Dublin Facebook Page

Groupon Dublin Facebook Page

So what about Ireland? Well, Groupon has a Facebook site for Ireland and has acquired MyCityDeal but there doesn’t seem to have been a real push and LivingSocial has been “coming to Dublin” for a number of months.

VaVaVouch - An Irish Collective Buying Site

VaVaVouch - An Irish Collective Buying Site

Vavavouch is a local website but doesn’t seem to have gained much traction and I frankly have not heard much lately about Boards Deals. Is it that Irish people just aren’t interested?

Boards Deals - an Irish Collective Buying Site

Boards Deals - another Irish Collective Buying Site using the boards.ie brand

We surveyed 83 people earlier this year. The respondents were largely female (76%), university educated or some other professional qualifation (85%) and aged between 22 and 34 (76%) – a pretty good sample relative to the US sites. Most (75%) go out to restaurants, bars, events or other social activities at least once a week and spend over €50 on a typical night out (63%). However, only 2 people were familiar with group buying sites and this is the crux of the matter – people simply don’t know about these sites and how the operate.The overwhelming majority of respondents have never heard of Groupon, Wowcher, LivingSocial, BuyWithMe or StealtheDeal. Pigsback had good brand awareness ratings with over 76% of respondents but that is a different business model altogether. It would seem in Ireland collective buying may be a matter of ignorance and not disinterest.

So are they interested? Well, we asked. Firstly, the respondents did use coupons and vouchers – over 35% in the previous 6 months and over 56% had a supermarket or retail store loyalty card. So they do use discount cards and vouchers. When we explained what group buying sites are and how they operated, over 58% said they would consider using these sites. On what?

  1. Restaurants and bars (81.4%)
  2. Concerts (51.4%)
  3. Local retail (47.1%)
  4. Movie Tickets (45.7%)
  5. Spas, Salons and Assorted Pampering (37.1%)
  6. Trips: B&B, Skiing, etc (37.1%)
  7. Events (24.3%)
  8. Tours and Sightseeing (15.7%)
  9. Theater (14.3%)
  10. Lessons and Classes (11.4%)

Interestingly, 46.5% of respondents have received a coupon, voucher or other discount offer via their mobile phone however only 8.5% had used the mobile phone coupon/voucher in the previous 6 months.

Basically, it seems to me that Irish people are interested in group buying, or at least our respondents were, but the group buying sites need to promote their sites and educate customers a lot more. Certainly Facebook and Twitter are much pervasive and this will allow spreadworthy messages to go viral particularly in these more economically-straightened times. Whether the time-dependent deals will take off is another matter.

O2 Treats - a partnership between O2 and ICAP Media

O2 Treats - a partnership between O2 and ICAP Media

Broadcast discount services like O2 Treats seem much more likely to be successful given the high mobile phone penetration, high SMS usage (and ease of spreading messages via SMS), the location-based targeting capability, and the relatively conditionless exchange. Even at an 8.5% adoption, this would generate significant sales for merchants, value for users while generating high revenues for the service provider.  Good news for ICAP Media!

So what about our little startup? Well, we developed the spec, had a catchy (if somewhat quirky name) and had identified a company in the Far East who could develop the site and back office functionality fairly cheaply but…unfortunately too many cooks or maybe too many Indians and no real Chief. Or maybe if it was so easy for us to enter the market then it will just be too much hassle to defend over time.

Irish Blogs

DCU Business School Practicum Day: At the crossroads of academia and practice

In Business Education, Business Plans, DCU Business School, Digital Marketing, Dublin City University, Entrepreneurship, Masters Education, MBS in Marketing, MSc in Business Management, Next Generation Management, Practicum, Theo Lynn, Uncategorized on August 31, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Last Friday (27 August 2010), we held the first DCU Business School Practicum Day. Starting at 8.30am, students on the MSc in Business Management and MBS in Marketing programmes displayed “research” posters, presented and answered questions regarding their major summer assignment, a group practicum.

A View From Above - some of the poster displays at DCU Business School's Practicum Day 2010

A View From Above - some of the poster displays at DCU Business School's Practicum Day 2010

A practicum is an assignment designed to give students supervised practical application of previously studied theory. In DCU Business School, we offer MBS in Marketing and MSc in Business Management students the choice of undertaking a individual dissertation, which is largely an academic piece of research, or a group practicum. We source practicums from a wide range of organisations, business and not-for-profit, and initial ideas for projects are presented to students via Moodle in February. The students make proposals for these projects and start working on them in March. A report of work completed is submitted at the end of July. Later in August, student groups present their project for 25 minutes to two assessors who then question them on their project. Feedback is provided on this interview and students then present their “research poster” and present and answer questions from an audience of peers, faculty and other guests for 10-15 minutes.

Tiernan Kennedy presenting his group's work on the use of digital marketing for international student recruitment for DCU Language Services at DCU Business School Practicum Day 2010.

Tiernan Kennedy presenting his group's work on the use of digital marketing for international student recruitment for DCU Language Services at DCU Business School Practicum Day 2010.

This year 22 groups presented their projects, which fell in to four main themes:

  • Original business plans – business ideas that students have identified, research and prepared business plans for.
  • Irish e-Business Marketing – marketing projects for Irish e-businesses
  • International Marketing – marketing projects for Irish businesses typically involving an international aspect
  • Local Businesses and Projects – marketing practicums for organisations located on the Northside of Dublin

In addition, two MSc in E-commerce (Business) groups presented their original business plans relating to online mannequins and mobile apps. (The MSc in E-commerce (Business) is a jointly offered programme with the School of Computing and has a separate presentation day earlier in August.)

The Perigord Team fielding questions at the DCU Business School Practicum Day

The Perigord Team fielding questions at the DCU Business School Practicum Day

Overall the day was very enjoyable and interesting. It gave students both the opportunity to (i) clarify issues raised or unaddressed from their report and interview and to (ii) see and appreciate the efforts of their peers. As well as students, guests including faculty,  industry, other members of the University, incoming students and parents attended. All were impressed with the quality and volume of work. Unlike dissertations, students have the opportunity to address a real-world problem with a live client or indeed pursue their own business idea.

The Foodies' Edu-plate Nutritional Learning Toy

The Foodies' Edu-plate Nutritional Learning Toy

As every business and context was different, approaches and projects varied dramatically and really brought individual competences to the fore including ideation, industrial design and digital marketing skills. The DCU Business School Practicum Programme also gives the Business School an opportunity to engage with the wider business community and forms a central part of our civic engagement strategy.

This year the projects had a strong digital marketing element and the students ably demonstrated their skills in integrating a wide range of activities including:

Professor Darach Turley discusses practicums with Marie Mooney at DCU Business School Practicum Day 2010.

Professor Darach Turley discusses practicums with Marie Mooney at DCU Business School Practicum Day 2010.

However, digital marketing was not the only focus. Work on best practice tendering process, brand communications and sales training featured strongly as well as the financial planning skills inherent in any business plan. All groups presented well and confidently fielding difficult and awkward questions at times. It struck me that from a communications perspective, they had all managed to reduce over 10,000 word reports to 25 minute presentations then to 7 minute presentations and then ultimately one page – no mean feat! And at the end of the day, I certainly was satisfied that these students can hit the ground running in the job market with both the theory and practical skills need in today’s economy.

The roll of honour:

Theme 1 – Original Business Plans

  • Foodies – an educational toy for teaching good nutrition.
The Foodies Team - Deirdre Shanahan, Terence Bowden, Aisling Meleady and Sophie Gavard - at their poster. The group brought their multidisciplanary background to develop a business plan for an educational toy for teaching children good nutritional habits.

The Foodies Team - Deirdre Shanahan, Terence Bowden, Aisling Meleady and Sophie Gavard - at their poster. The group brought their multidisciplanary background to develop a business plan for an educational toy for teaching children good nutritional habits.

  • Online Fits – an 3-D body shape visualisation solution for online clothing retail sites.
Katia Zavershinskaya, David Gilchrist and Enkeled Uldedaj explain 3-D body shape visualisation in their Online Fits practicum project.

Katia Zavershinskaya, David Gilchrist and Enkeled Uldedaj explain 3-D body shape visualisation in their Online Fits practicum project.

  • Sample Circus – a circus-themed event-based tryvertising business for the cosmetics industry.
Cara Kennedy, Lyn Whyte, Martina Martinez-Cano and Caroline Mullen present their poster on Sample Circus at DCU Business School Practicum Day.

Cara Kennedy, Lyn Whyte, Martina Martinez-Cano and Caroline Mullen present their poster on Sample Circus at DCU Business School Practicum Day.

  • Dot Dot Dot Fashion Marketing – a digital marketing business for emerging fashion designers.
Stephen Conway, Valeria deFeudis, Emmy Rangel Calderas, Margaret Connolly and Nichola McHugh bring some style to the DCU Business School Practicum Day with Dot Dot Dot Fashion Marketing.

Stephen Conway, Valeria deFeudis, Emmy Rangel Calderas, Margaret Connolly and Nichola McHugh bring some style to the DCU Business School Practicum Day with Dot Dot Dot Fashion Marketing.

  • Afro Celt Airlines – an airline operating between Dublin and Lagos.
Afro-celt Airlines - Charles Okinji, John Keating,  Paul Tyrell and Stephen Osondu

Afro-celt Airlines - Charles Okinji, John Keating, Paul Tyrell and Stephen Osondu

  • SmartLED Lighting – a wholesale distributor of LED lighting solutions.
SmartLED Lighting (Keith Lawless, Andrea Bonnie, Una O'Neill, Lorna NiMhuiri and Ivan Casado) - a wholesale distributor of LED lighting solutions.

SmartLED Lighting (Keith Lawless, Andrea Bonnie, Una O'Neill, Lorna NiMhuiri and Ivan Casado) - a wholesale distributor of LED lighting solutions.

Theme 2 – Irish e-Business Marketing

  • Horseplay – digital marketing research, plan and pilot for horseplay.ie, a specialist equidae website.
Aoibhe Dunne and Conor Quinn display their Horseplay project poster.

Aoibhe Dunne and Conor Quinn display their Horseplay project poster.

  • Tenderme – digital marketing research, plan and pilot for tenderme.ie, an online tendering site.
John Cullen explains his practicum project on digital marketing for TenderMe to Professor Brian Leavy at the DCU Business School Practicum Day 2010

John Cullen explains his practicum project on digital marketing for TenderMe to Professor Brian Leavy at the DCU Business School Practicum Day 2010

Steven Nee and Khaild Hussein pose in front of their poster on their Digitary practicum.

Steven Nee and Khaild Hussein pose in front of their poster on their Digitary practicum.

  • HRLocker (UK and Ireland) – digital marketing research, plan and pilot on the Irish and UK market for HRLocker, an online HR software service.
Antonio Minuta and Carolann O'Sullivan pose in front of their research poster on HRLocker (UK and Ireland).

Antonio Minuta and Carolann O'Sullivan pose in front of their research poster on HRLocker (UK and Ireland).

Theme 3 – International Marketing

  • Toddler Holidays – digital marketing research, plan and pilot for Toddlerholidays.com, a France-based holiday home rental specialist for families with children under the age of 5.
Aideen Murphy and Ailish Tully present their findings on research and work completed for Toddler Holidays at DCU Business School Practicum Day.

Aideen Murphy and Ailish Tully present their findings on research and work completed for Toddler Holidays at DCU Business School Practicum Day.

  • HR Locker (North America) – market entry and digital marketing research on the US market for HRLocker, an online HR software service.
Simon McNally, Katie Murray, Kimberley Ramsay and Siobhan Buckley and their HRLocker (North America) poster at DCU Business School Practicum Day.

Simon McNally, Katie Murray, Kimberley Ramsay and Siobhan Buckley and their HRLocker (North America) poster at DCU Business School Practicum Day.

  • Dabl – market entry and localisation research on the Chinese market for Dabl, an online cardiovascular disease management system software developer.
Brian Joyce, Tien Nghiem, Guang Yang and Rachel Murray researched a Chinese market entry strategy for Dabl.ie for their practicum.

Brian Joyce, Tien Nghiem, Guang Yang and Rachel Murray researched a Chinese market entry strategy for Dabl.ie for their practicum.

Seyed Mohammad Amin Amirkhalili, Zara Walsh and Tiernan O'Kennedy in front of their research poster on international student recruitment for DCU Language Services.

Seyed Mohammad Amin Amirkhalili, Zara Walsh and Tiernan O'Kennedy in front of their research poster on international student recruitment for DCU Language Services.

  • Equinome – a marketing strategy for Equinome, an equine genetic testing service for the bloodstock industry.
The Equinome Group (Niall Clarke, Risteard Kinsella, Brendan Davis and David O'Rorke)

The Equinome Group (Niall Clarke, Risteard Kinsella, Brendan Davis and David O'Rorke)

Theme 4 – Local Businesses and Projects

  • Perigord – online communications strategy research, plan and pilot for Perigord, an online digital asset management service provider.
The Perigord Team - Ian Hemmingway, Rosemary Clancy, Eimear Murphy and Anton McMenamin

The Perigord Team - Ian Hemmingway, Rosemary Clancy, Eimear Murphy and Anton McMenamin

Damien O'Ceallaigh, Emer Keenan, Sheena O'Dowd and Roisin Lyons at their research poster at DCU Business School Practicum Day.

Damien O'Ceallaigh, Emer Keenan, Sheena O'Dowd and Roisin Lyons at their research poster at DCU Business School Practicum Day.

Niamh Downey and Laureen Morrissette present their poster on their North Dublin Chamber of Commerce practicum.

Niamh Downey and Laureen Morrissette present their poster on their North Dublin Chamber of Commerce practicum.

The DCU Civic Engagement Group - Cormac Hyland, Jenny Gaynor, Joanne Coughlan, Marie Mooney and Tom Muldowney.

The DCU Civic Engagement Group - Cormac Hyland, Jenny Gaynor, Joanne Coughlan, Marie Mooney and Tom Muldowney.

Aine Morris, Jenny O'Driscoll, Kate McGuinness and Diarmuid Murphy and their practicum poster on work completed for Printpac Services at DCU Business School Practicum Day.

Aine Morris, Jenny O'Driscoll, Kate McGuinness and Diarmuid Murphy and their practicum poster on work completed for Printpac Services at DCU Business School Practicum Day.

Tom Muldowney discusses the Timing Ireland practicum with Ed Dooley, Ciaran Dunne and David Fox at the DCU Business School Practicum Day.

Tom Muldowney discusses the Timing Ireland practicum with Ed Dooley, Ciaran Dunne and David Fox at the DCU Business School Practicum Day.

Irish Blogs

Johnny Drama and why I dumped my iPhone 3G and possibly Vodafone too!

In Apple, Bad Customer Service, BlackBerry, Business cases, Galaxy, iPhone 3GS, iTouch, Mobile Computing, Samsung, World Expo 2010 on August 28, 2010 at 5:30 pm

To clear one thing up – I accept that the iPhone is an iconic mobile device and piece of industrial design. No argument there. However a couple of weeks after a month of using my free one, I have dumped it and reverted to my BlackBerry Bold. Why? Because the iPhone is a consumer device and I think the BlackBerry is a business one. And the Vodafone/Apple technical support for iPhone sucked while I have never had to use technical support for my BlackBerry…it really is that simple.

Vodafone gets iPhone....yes, indeed

After a year or longer of listening to 02 iPhone fanatics, Vodafone got iPhone and so did I – it was free after all. For the month I used my iPhone, I was addicted. I already had an iTouch for around the house at home and enjoyed the apps and having web access via my phone 24/7/365; I, like many, often bemoaned the slow browser access on my Bold. From my perspective, email on a BlackBerry Bold is close to perfect but writing email, particularly detailed ones, on an iPhone is an irritant. The bad email user experience on email on an iPhone ironically has an upside – while you read the same number of emails, you don’t respond as much and thus it could be argued that it is less intrusive and addictive. Is the iPhone a cure for the “Crackberry Addiction?” However, email is my main communication mechanism. I found my self less productive. Why? The time I spent not replying to emails (and being productive) was transferred to less productive activities on my iPhone – using apps (and especially Tweetdeck) and browsing the web. But even then, I didn’t give up – not until I travelled with my iPhone.

As documented elsewhere on this blog, I recently travelled to China and for the first two days my iPhone functioned perfectly – I had my camera, World Expo apps, my Chinese transport apps, access to Tweetdeck, email and other cloud-based systems needed for work back in DCU all in one device. One other iPhone user had problems but after awhile they seemed to correct themselves – maybe it was the humidity? I didn’t care – mine worked fine. Then two days in, I tried to enter my passcode and it didn’t work. Try a few more times. No luck. My iPhone tells me to wait a minute and try again. I wait. Still doesn’t work. My iPhone tells me to wait fifteen minutes. I try again. No luck again. Wait an hour. Try again. No luck. Wait four hours. Try again. No Luck. Sync to MacBook Air. Try Again. The loop starts again. I am in some postmodern Escher iPhone hell…..in China.

The next morning I try my sim card in another iPhone. It works. I ring Vodafone Customer Support. They tell me to enter the passcode. See paragraph above. They transfer me to Technical Support. They tell me to enter the passcode. See paragraph above. It must be my sim card. My sim card works on other phones – why not this one. Resync with your MacBook Air. See paragraph above. Call back. I call back and get transferred to Apple Technical Support. Repeat process. Then where has Apple Support gone?  I have got cut off. I ring back – they close at 1945 – they take this seriously. I never hear from Apple Support again. I ring Vodafone – they suggest replacing the Sim. I am stuck in China with 24 students and no phone. Hell.

BlackBerry Bold

BlackBerry Bold

I get home, my Sim works in my BlackBerry. At least I am back where I started from. Vodafone have a Sim card waiting for me. My Passcode still doesn’t work. I ring Vodafone Customer Support. Can I drop in to a Vodafone store and send it for repair? No Problem. I drive over the the Vodafone Store in the Pavillions, Swords and leave it in. I fill out a form giving my mobile and office number.

Vodafone Retail Swords - Avoid At All Costs

Vodafone Retail Swords - Avoid At All Costs

Four weeks go by, no word from Vodafone. I drop in to check what the status is. I wait for 2-3 minutes while the girl behind the desk looks at her text messages and laughs – my little boy is bored; I am getting increasingly irritated. She finally notices me. My phone has been there for three weeks – it apparently is not an iPhone handset supplied by Vodafone. I explain there must be a mistake, no mistake. They contacted me three weeks previously to tell me. How? By text. I received no text. Why didn’t they call my office? No response – not even an attempt at an explanation – just a blank response. I explain that I got the phone from Vodafone – I have been a Vodafonecustomer for over 13 years. It’s not a Vodafone-supplied phone – the IMEI/Serial code is incorrect. How can this be so? The code on the iPhone Sim Code Tray does not match the one on my file. Could it be that the handset is the one supplied and then when I tested the sim in another phone (as per Vodafone instructions) the sim card tray got mixed up? Possibly. Did they check the IMEI/Serial number on the iPhone software with the one on my iTunes or Vodafone account? No. Can they send it back? No. I insist. Ok. At this stage, my wife has taken my kid next door for a coffee as I have been in the shop for 15 minutes getting increasingly frustrated. Things couldn’t get worse. They did.

At this point, the person I am dealing with is re-entering my information in the “Vodafone Equipment Returns Form”. The original one, has the very same person’s contact details – let’s call her Samantha (not her real name) and as previously mentioned my mobile and office number. She rekeys the data and prints for me to see. She no longer calls herself Samantha as the Contact – she is now called “Johnny Drama” – JOHNNY DRAMA! Now I am annoyed. Does she think this is funny? Who is her supervisor? She isn’t working. “Johnny Drama” is the default contact. What’s her name? She does not want to give me her name. Could it be Samantha as per the original details on the “Vodafone Equipment Returns Form”. What is worse? She no longer has my contact details right or lists my office details. I have had enough.

iPhone 3G Simcard Holder

iPhone 3G Simcard Holder

Less than a week later Vodafone telephone me to tell me my iPhone is ready for collection. My wife collects it, I take it, put it in to the original box and in to a drawer never to be used again.

What particularly angers me is that in DCU we have literally thousands of students who would like Samantha’s job and could do it ten times better. What is worse? I was a loyal BlackBerry user – Apple had me and now have lost me. And what is even worse again? I am a loyal and good Vodafone customer – I have brought over one hundred customers to Vodafone through my related companies over 13 years. I am a shareholder (although admittedly only through the Eircom fiasco). I may switch to another carrier and I am going to tell more than ten people (See note 1 below), a lot more.

PS – My BlackBerry Bold has never let me down. I still use my iTouch. I am looking at a Samsung Galaxy for personal use.

Note 1. A common customer service anecdote is that one unhappy customer tells ten others; a happy customer tells only 4. This has been superceded by the power of the Internet to spread information. See The Microeconomics of Customer Relationships by Fred Reicheld for a brief discussion on a related topic.

Irish Blogs

Leaving the ‘Paris of the East’ – Goodbye Shanghai! – Day Nine of the DCU Business School Trip to Shanghai

In Business Education, DCU Business School, Doing Business in China, Dublin City University, Ireland, MBS in Marketing, MSc in Business Management, MSc in E-commerce, Next Generation Management, Shanghai, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, Travel, World Expo 2010 on August 11, 2010 at 9:18 am
The DCU Business School Group pose one last time outside the Ya Fan Longmen Hotel, Shanghai.

The DCU Business School Group pose one last time outside the Ya Fan Longmen Hotel, Shanghai.

And so our Shanghai adventures come to an end.

We decided to spare ourselves the hassle of  negotiating the Shanghai transport system at 7am and rented a coach to the Airport – it took significantly longer than the MagLev! Unsurprisingly (1) we had more luggage leaving and (2) few people were awake to witness our departure through the outskirts of Shanghai. Checking in at Pudong International Airport was straightforward and only one person had to pay extra baggage charges!

Laurynas Binderis modelling a fetching pair of sunglasses at Duty Free in Pudong International Airport, Shanghai.

Laurynas Binderis modelling a fetching pair of sunglasses at Duty Free in Pudong International Airport, Shanghai.

Pudong International Airport is extremely modern and the range of shops and duty free goods is excellent. I think I did a good job avoiding the propensity to buy unusually large amounts of tacky souvenirs and bought what I thought my wife and kids would genuinely like (and for the record they did!) – a Shanghai Tang scarf for Niamh, a “genuine” Chinese ethnic doll for Aoife, a panda bear pillow for Jamie and last but not least, a Panda hat for Chloe. The Panda hat may be a bit big!

Ciara Dolan models Chloe's Panda Bear hat as Micheal O'Leary looks on enviously in Pudong International Airport, Shanghai. Stylish.

Ciara Dolan models Chloe's Panda Bear hat as Micheal O'Leary looks on enviously in Pudong International Airport, Shanghai. Stylish.

The flight home was a mixed affair. I got upgraded to Business Class so I was as happy as the proverbial pig however the group got randomly spread across the rest of economy rather than together and I think the BA crew could have been more understanding in relation to some specific cultural requirements some of our students had. Equally everyone was tired. The minor stopover at Heathrow, lunch at Giraffe and short hop to Dublin was not worth mentioning – everyone home safe and sound!

6,141 miles, 9 days, 24 postgrads, 3 support staff, one monkey, very little sleep – was it worth it? Absolutely.

The roll of honour:

Andrew Bonello (Research Assistant, DCU Leadership, Innovation and Knowledge (LINK) Research Centre, DCU Business School)

Andrew Bonello (Research Assistant, DCU Leadership, Innovation and Knowledge (LINK) Research Centre, DCU Business School)

Sarah McPartlin (Teaching Assistant, DCU Business School)

Sarah McPartlin (Teaching Assistant, DCU Business School)

Micheal O'Leary (Teaching Assistant, DCU Business School)

Micheal O'Leary (Teaching Assistant, DCU Business School)

Wafa AlMuhamma (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Wafa AlMuhamma (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Laurynas Binderis (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Laurynas Binderis (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Siobhan Buckley soaks up Shanghai on the Big Bus Tour

Siobhan Buckley (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Rosemary Clancy (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Rosemary Clancy (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Brian Connolly (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Brian Connolly (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Joe Cullinan (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Joe Cullinan (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Sean Cullivan (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Sean Cullivan (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Ciara Dolan (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Ciara Dolan (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Sean Donnelly (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Sean Donnelly (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Niamh Downey (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Niamh Downey (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Rob Elliffe (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business Sc

Rob Elliffe (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Martin Hennig (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Martin Hennig (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Dan Higgins (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business Sch

Dan Higgins (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School

Keith Lawless (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Keith Lawless (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Tanya McNamara (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Tanya McNamara (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Beatrice Metzler (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Beatrice Metzler (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Laureen Morrissette (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Laureen Morrissette (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Niamh NicClamha (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Niamh NicClamha (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Lorna NiMhuiri (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Lorna NiMhuiri (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Nicolae (Nick) Opris (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Nicolae (Nick) Opris (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Carolann O'Sullivan (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Carolann O'Sullivan (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Barry Sweeney (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Barry Sweeney (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Zara Walsh (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Zara Walsh (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Ekaterina (Katia) Zavershinskaya (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Ekaterina (Katia) Zavershinskaya (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

The Monkey

The Monkey

r. Theo Lynn (Director, DCU Leadership, Innovation and Knowledge (LINK) Research Centre, DCU Business School)

Dr. Theo Lynn (Director, DCU Leadership, Innovation and Knowledge (LINK) Research Centre, DCU Business School)

More photos on flickr.
Irish Blogs

Last day in Shanghai – Day Eight of the DCU Business School Trip to Shanghai 2010

In An Bord Bia, Business Education, CEIBS, Chinese Food, DCU Business School, Di Shui Dong, Doing Business in China, Dublin City University, Elearning, Ireland, Irish Pavilion, MBS in Marketing, MSc in Business Management, MSc in E-commerce, Next Generation Management, Shanghai Restaurants, The Blarney Stone, Travel, Uncategorized, World Expo 2010 on August 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Our last day kicked off with a frenetic visit by Andrew and I to CEIBS to hear about their e-learning publishing business. CEIBS seems to be the equivalent of the Harvard Business School of China and the CEIBS MBA is ranked 8th in the world. The campus is great with a lot of space for contemplation – there seemed to be an abundance of meditation pools (or it could just be good landscaping!) One of our alumni heads up business development for the e-learning business and I was interested in sharing experiences with her. CEIBS has developed a fairly comprehensive suite of e-learning courses for their general business with a judicious mix of interactivity. I could see a suite of elearning modules by CEIBS on doing business in China being a real hit and it was interesting to hear their thoughts and plans although we had very little time – all my fault; I totally misread the traffic an distance to CEIBS.

CEIBS

CEIBS

We had planned to get back to the hotel and get the coach to Paypal Shanghai but it turned out it was faster to meet the rest of the group at Paypal‘s office. Their offices could have been in California – the office block was a modern high rise in a landscaped business park in the Shanghai suburbs and the interior was the same level of modern professionalism. Martin Hennig (one of our MSc in E-commerce (Business) students) works for Paypal in Ireland and organised a tour of their Shanghai office. Martin kicked off with a great presentation to the group on Paypal and its operations and answered any questions we had. We then had a really good tour around each department in Paypal – unfortunately, I can’t share the details as we agreed to confidentiality. I can tell you that everyone we met spoke excellent English and seemed on top of their game.

Paypal China

Paypal China

As it was our last day, we got the coach back to the market under the Science and Technology Museum for people to pick up additional presents and custom clothes ordered. At this stage, we had a regular meeting place at the market, Daisy’s, where we could pick up edible food and big mugs of Espresso. After a couple of hours, I had had enough haggling, stringing the shop-owners along and espresso and decided to go back to the hotel for our penultimate meeting of the trip with Breffini Kennedy (Asia Manager, An Bord Bia).

Sean Cullivan, the happy buyer of a tailor-made linen jacket from Shanghai. Don Johnson watch out.

Sean Cullivan, the happy buyer of a tailor-made linen jacket from Shanghai. Don Johnson watch out.

I have to say Breiffini’s talk with us was great. He gave us great insights in to his career and how his various roles in different organisations resulted in his current placement in China and how various skills and knowledge he acquired in previous roles contributes to his current role. Breiffini is a one-man office representing the Irish food industry in Asia with responsibility for both promoting and generating deals for Irish food companies but also making sure we can sell in the market at all. For example, An Bord Bia were actively involved in getting the Chinese ban on Irish pork products lifted recently following the 2008 dioxin scare.

Irish pork products allowed back in to China. Good for Irish farmers, not so sure about the pigs!

Irish pork products allowed back in to China. Good for Irish farmers, not so sure about the pigs!

Everyone liked Breiffini’s hands-on approach – he attends trade fairs, chases down leads, does market research and is often the first point of contact for some large deals. He explains that this often means visiting places that he has never heard of, often off the well beaten path to Beijing and Shanghai. He believes and made a very strong case for greater investment in Asia from the Irish food and beverage industry. There are so many direct and complementary opportunities that Ireland can exploit – for example, China is turning in to a major market for non-traditional meat products e.g. offal, trotters etc. These products simply wouldn’t sell in Ireland and while not hugely financially profitable do offset costs and develop trade relationships. Once again, Breiffini stressed the importance of guanxi and raising the profile of Ireland in the minds of the Chinese public. Breiffini did a great job contextualising the Irish World Expo pavilion design by explaining that emphasising the greenness of Ireland helps with agricultural perception etc.

Breffini Kennedy from An Bord Bia answers questions from the DCU Business School group in Shanghai.

Breffini Kennedy from An Bord Bia answers questions from the DCU Business School group in Shanghai.

The meeting ended with some thoughts on living in China and he was very open about both his and his wife’s experience. He praised the International hospitals in Shanghai and also noted that they didn’t realise how well they had adapted to life in China until they had visitors over from Ireland and others told them. Breiffini the fielded questions for over 45 minutes on various aspects of working in China and An Bord Bia – we could have gone for a lot longer!

Eoin Murphy, President of the Le Cheile, the Irish Community in Shanghai.

Eoin Murphy, President of the Le Cheile, the Irish Community in Shanghai.

Our final engagement was dinner with Eoin Murphy from Le Cheile, the Irish Community in Shanghai, in the Di Shui Dong Restaurant. Di Shui Dong is a Huananese restaurant which was recommended by Deirdre Green (ChinaGreen) – it means “Water Dropping Hole” but literal translations don’t work well in China. Basically, everything is spicy! While the decor was modest, the food was excellent, reasonably priced and nearly everything was both recognisable and edible, although in some cases, extremely spicy!

Dan Higgins, Sean Cullivan and Brian Connolly consider what Huananese spicy food really means at the Di Shui Dong restaurant, Shanghai.

Dan Higgins, Sean Cullivan and Brian Connolly consider what Huananese spicy food really means at the Di Shui Dong restaurant, Shanghai.

For approx. 25 euros each we had over 20 dishes and drinks for the night. Eoin was great fun but unfortunately couldn’t be split in three across our tables – hopefully, we will have more time to spend with him the next time. If you are looking at moving to Shanghai, doing business in China or visiting, trust me it is worthwhile contacting Eoin or looking at the Le Cheile website – the Irish welcome is alive and well in Shanghai!

Joe Cullinan outside The Blarney Stone, Shanghai.

Joe Cullinan outside The Blarney Stone, Shanghai.

The Blarney Stone, one of Shanghai’s Irish pubs, is located next door to Di Shui Dong and we invaded en masse. The Blarney Stone is what one would expect – Irish Pub decor and their own balladeer, Big Paul. There were only 5-6 people there so we, effectively, had the bar to ourselves (although I noted our new friends from An Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and An Bord Failte were also there and came over to say hello) and after a couple of rounds we took over the entertainment too.

Sean Donnelly, Carolann O'Sullivan and Barry Sweeney get in to the swing of things at The Blarney Stone, Shanghai.

Sean Donnelly, Carolann O'Sullivan and Barry Sweeney get in to the swing of things at The Blarney Stone, Shanghai.

It is trips like these that hidden talents come out and Sean Cullivan’s rendition of Galway Girl and Seven Drunken Nights will be one we will all remember – maybe Big Paul too! Experience it here on youtube.

Sean Cullivan takes over from Big Paul and knocks out 'Galway Girl' at The Blarney Stone, Shanghai

Sean Cullivan takes over from Big Paul and knocks out 'Galway Girl' at The Blarney Stone, Shanghai. Experience it on youtube.

Before I left for the hotel, the group presented me with a variety of mementos of the trip for which I am grateful and display proudly in my office. “The Man Club” was closed when we got back to the hotel and to some extent, I was glad our last night ended on an Irish note, no matter how out of tune that might have been.

More photos on flickr. Day Nine to follow….
Irish Blogs

Father’s Day in Shanghai, a day of rest? – Day Seven of the DCU Business School Trip to Shanghai

In DCU Business School, Doing Business in China, Dublin City University, Enterprise Ireland, Father's Day, Huaihai Road, Ireland, Jade on 36, MBS in Marketing, MSc in Business Management, MSc in E-commerce, Next Generation Management, Shanghai, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, Shangri la Pudong, Shopping, The Westin, Travel, Yongkang Lu on July 29, 2010 at 11:56 am
Dr. Theo Lynn (DCU Business School) with monkey at Father's Day brunch in the Westin on the Bund, Shanghai.

Dr. Theo Lynn (DCU Business School) with monkey at Father's Day brunch in the Westin on the Bund, Shanghai.

It’s Father’s Day and I am nearly 6,000 miles from the kids….not a good start to my first Sunday in Shanghai. Unlike Ireland, today is not a day of rest for our group. We kicked off with an informal briefing from Enterprise Ireland‘s Alan Buckley (Director), Kevin Sherry (Director, International Sales and Partnering) and Renee Wu (Manager – East China). Alan and Renee are based in China, in Beijing and Shanghai respectively and Alan is over for World Expo but also the Enterprise Ireland regional meeting. It was a relaxed start to the day and we held the session over coffee in the lobby of the hotel. Alan gave us an overview of Enterprise Ireland‘s activities in the region and the challenges. We all agreed educating the Chinese about Ireland was a crucial first step. Again, the sheer scale of the opportunity was hit home but also that EI‘s activities, while successful, were severely constrained by funding. Alan also stressed the importance of relationships and guanxi but also having a presence in China. Enterprise Ireland are not immune from this either and their presence in the Irish Consulate greatly assists their efforts. I was quite impressed by Kevin as he was very interested in the group’s thoughts and listening to their first impressions.

Jade on 36, Shangri La Pudong, Shanghai

Jade on 36, Shangri La Pudong, Shanghai

We had booked brunch at the Shangri La Hotel in Pudong. Initially this was going to be my personal treat however soon 16 of us had booked in….or so we thought. On arrival, we found that although we had made a reservation through their website, this had not been communicated to the Jade on 36 restaurant…. While we were offered the option of a Japanese brunch, unfortunately this didn’t really suit our palate. In fairness to Clement Jacquel, the Service Manager, and his the staff at the Shangri La, they immediately rang the Westin on the Bund, paid for transport and booked us in to a private room there for brunch.

The Westin on the Bund, Shanghai

The Westin on the Bund, Shanghai

Serendipity struck again! The Westin was great. Brunch was served over two floors from 7-10 serving stations, something for everyone – Italian, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, English, even a caviar bar, candy floss and pick-n-mix sweet trolley! We were on the second floor and we could look down and see the different entertainment the Westin had laid on – a 16-piece orchestra, child acrobats/gymnasts, magicians, clowns and singers – it was like a circus-themed restaurant.

A view of the lobby dining area for brunch in the Westin on the Bund with orchestra on steps in background.

A view of the lobby dining area for brunch in the Westin on the Bund with orchestra on steps in background.

After some champagne, the group attacked the food and two hours later after several desserts, we lazed around in our guilt. I rang my kids which only exacerbated this feeling but its amazing what a good chocolate brownie will cure!

DCU Business School group in our private room for brunch at the Westin on the Bund, Shanghai

DCU Business School group in our private room for brunch at the Westin on the Bund, Shanghai

Just before we were leaving, we ran in to some of the Irish diaspora from Cork working for EMC Research in Shanghai. It says a lot about the Irish that within 15 minutes of meeting us, the offer to visit EMC Research was made. Unfortunately there was no more time in our schedule but the offer was much appreciated. Maybe the “Ireland of a thousand welcomes” may be lost in Ireland but the diaspora certainly make up for it! We all agreed the Westin Brunch is a must for any visit to Shanghai, especially one with kids, even the older ones!

Dr. Theo Lynn, Ciara Dolan and Rosemary Clancy at brunch at The Westin on the Bund, Shanghai. Sean Donnelly auditions as a server.

Dr. Theo Lynn, Ciara Dolan and Rosemary Clancy at brunch at The Westin on the Bund, Shanghai. Sean Donnelly auditions as a server.

While some of the group decided to hit the markets again, Andrew, Martin, Laureen and I decided on some culture. Alan Bradley had recommended the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum and so we jumped in a taxi and made our way back to People’s Square. It says a lot about the Chinese and their sense of scale that they have a museum just about urban planning in Shanghai, Dublin urban planning seems an oxymoron! The museum is huge and has exhibits over several floors which explores different aspects of the evolution of Shanghai through pictures, film and other exhibits. It is not everyone’s cup of tea however the giant model of Shanghai is worth the reasonable admission fee. It takes up an entire floor and you can walk around and view it from an attached gantry. The detail is impressive – Andrew even found the Maltese pavilion in World Expo in the model!

A view from above. The model of Shanghai at the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum.

A view from above. The model of Shanghai at the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum.

Our plan was to get a quick coffee and visit the Shanghai Museum located behind the Urban Planning museum. We popped in to Starbucks for a quick coffee (and to buy a Shanghai city mug) and sat in the drizzle of the People’s Park. It was quite amusing. Clearly Sunday is Date Day for young Shanghai couples and we felt slightly guilty that we were disturbing them. After a few minutes, we couldn’t take it any longer and left Chinese couples to what couples all over the world get up to… And off we went heading towards what we thought was the Shanghai Museum. As we walked through the Park, we couldn’t help but notice the large number of older Chinese people congregated under canopies over the paths with pieces of A4 paper attached like notices to fences and trees. What could they be? We eventually discovered that these were marriage notifications – now we really felt for those couples we had disturbed earlier, little did they know what their parents were up to!

My attempt to negotiate marriage contracts for Andrew Bonello, Laureen Morrissette and Martin Hennig at the People's Park in Shanghai were unsuccessful.

My attempt to negotiate marriage contracts for Andrew Bonello, Laureen Morrissette and Martin Hennig at the People's Park in Shanghai were unsuccessful.

Eventually we got to the Shanghai Museum. I say eventually because we inadvertently walked the entire circumference of Renmin Square. And what did we find? It had closed 5 minutes earlier. So readers, no we didn’t get to see the 120,000+ collection of Chinese artifacts. So much for culture.

Martin Hennig, Laureen Morrissette, Dr. Theo Lynn (with Monkey) and Andrew Bonello outside a closed Shanghai Museum.

Martin Hennig, Laureen Morrissette, Dr. Theo Lynn (with Monkey) and Andrew Bonello outside a closed Shanghai Museum.

We then decided to visit some of the shopping streets – unfortunately I have no idea where we were but it seemed to be more Chinese than western! Before you suggest, no, it wasn’t Monganshan Lu – the famous modern art district – I think Yongkang Lu. Anyhow it was full of little alleys with all sorts of bits and pieces to buy and lots of photo galleries and art shops.

Laureen Morrissette looks for gifts in Yongkang Lu...maybe.

Laureen Morrissette looks for gifts in Yongkang Lu...maybe.

For those interested in modern art or pop culture with an Asian bent, this area is manna from heaven. Imagine an Asian Urban Outfitter-themed diagonal alley (from Harry Potter) and that’s the general impression – a bit like the Laines in Brighton.

One of lanes in Yongkang Lu, Shanghai - I think.

One of lanes in Yongkang Lu, Shanghai - I think.

It also had a couple of fresh food markets which were quite interesting to visit in a voyeuristic way. They looked initially like Irish farmer’s markets but in some ways were like some alternate reality – totally different vegetables, many of which were unknown to us and meats that in Ireland would not be offered for sale – offal, chicken feet etc. I felt for one hapless employee whose job seemed to be cutting the nails of the chicken feet….

Martin Hennig tries to find out where we are from other equally lost tourists!

Martin Hennig tries to find out where we are from other equally lost tourists!

After attempting to and giving up on working out where we were, we hailed a cab to the Huaihai Road, Shanghai’s main medium-to-high end shopping street. As usual, the Chinese cabby wouldn’t let us put on our seatbelts and off we went literally on the Chinese version of a rollercoaster ride. The Huaihai Road is six-kilometre street blending modern department stores with branded stores from most of the Western fashionable and luxury marques. If you are looking for bargains, I am not sure they are here. We popped in to the Apple store which is like its contemporaries in London and elsewhere including the price which was the same as London, if not higher. Authentic luxury and fashionable products are still valued and cost no matter where.

Welcome to Shanghai! The famous sign on the Huaihai Road, a six kilometre Shanghai shopping extravaganza!

Welcome to Shanghai! The famous sign on the Huaihai Road, a six kilometre Shanghai shopping extravaganza!

To some extent, you could be in any major city worldwide but the differences are there in the shops, the culture and the people. Maybe only in China are there signs indicating management is honest (and presumably if you don’t have the sign, you are dishonest?) or food quality is good (and presumably if you don’t have the sign, you will be tethered to the toilet?). It is worthwhile visiting those stores that the Chinese authorities consider good – we went to some impressive specialist tea and jade shops where the difference in quality between their tea sets and the ones in the market were perceptible both to the eye and wallet!

Honest management but food not so great!

Honest management but food not so great!

Middle Huaihai Road seemed to have best selection of designer and luxury shops, a good and varied selection of eateries, and some good views from the walkbridges. The dedicated shopper could spend days here however Andrew and I gave up and let Martin and Laureen continue their explorations.

Dr. Theo Lynn shares a joke with Laureen Morrissette and Andrew Bonello on the walkbridge over Huailai Road, Shanghai.

Dr. Theo Lynn shares a joke with Laureen Morrissette and Andrew Bonello on the walkbridge over Huailai Road, Shanghai.

Day Seven ended with another late night in the “Man Club” chewing the fat with the rest of the group and having a bucket of ice split all over me – it’s a long story and not for this blog!

More photos on flickr. Day Eight to follow….
Irish Blogs