Marketing 101 In a Nutshell
Two Opportunities & Challenges of Digital Technology:
Communication via digital technology creates two opportunities and challenges respectively for marketers in the 21st Century. The two opportunities include: (1) Increased Share of Customer; and (2) Building Customer Equity. However, digital technology communication also assumes at least two challenges for marketers, specifically, (1) Privacy/Liability Issues and (2) Risk of Brand Damage.
Increased Share of Customer—Digital technology purposefully avails to the opportunity of increased share of customer. Share of customer refers to the portion of customer purchases a company receives in its product categories. [i]
Increased variety to current customers generally assumes a higher share of the customer as companies may satisfy more multiple interests by diversifying products and/or services. This increased variety of customers may differentiate from competitors that offer less selection, increasing the potential for a higher share of customer.
Communication via digital technology displays such an opportunity to increase the share of a customer by offering greater variety.
For example, an estimated 50% of American adults now use smartphones, with 25% of that proportion using mobile devices to access social media. [ii] Additionally, Americans reportedly average 5.24 hours with digital media. [iii] Consequently, this exponential demand for social media in a rapidly increasing globalized landscape compels purportedly 90% of companies to exploit digital social media marketing. [iv] As this “consumer love affair” fosters “fertile ground” for marketers “to engage customers,” marketers may efficaciously exploit advantage by offering more accessories that innovatively integrate digital communication into company products and services. [v]
Indeed, Marie Gulin, Loreal’s VP of Global Integrated Communications contemplated social media as a potential “game-changing” influence in hair color product development to rehabilitate its prominent market position. Digital communication facilitated a felicitous opportunity to diversify hair products and differentiate from competitors in attracting consumers. This idea she excogitated after examining consumer response to the social media campaigns implemented by other industries. Her hypothesis proved accurate. [vi] A greater proprietary assortment of digital communication options may differentiate one company from another, targeting multifarious interests to attract more customers.
GoPro benefited from this theme. These sophisticated cameras, “help people capture, share, and celebrate with others action-charged experiences of their lives.”[vii] However, digital communications technology paved these new paths of expression among consumers. Therefore, the increased competition to differentiate by diversifying products and/or services with increasingly innovative digital communication technology options strongly support increased share of customer. But for the increased competitiveness inherently assumed in diversifying digital communication, marketers may not otherwise avail to strategically seize creative solutions. Thus, digital communication offers the quintessential opportunity to capitalize on the share of customer, incentivizing ingenuity in products and/or services. This opportunity enables marketers to satisfy exponential consumer demand by inventing different ways to incorporate digital communication applications into products and/or services.
Building Customer Equity—The hypertrophy of digital communication also enables an opportunity to build customer equity as marketers utilize advanced technology in considering consumer preferences. Customer equity refers to the aggregate value of all current and potential customers. [viii] Marketers may utilize predictive analytics—a software system that incorporates computer-generated logic to determine consumer interests, inferring trends and patterns from stored computer data. Predictive analytics may enable marketers to potentially maximize customer-equity by attracting current and prospective customers based on the copious cornucopia of cumulative computer data available.
For example, IBM provides predictive analytics software as a revolutionary resource to help business leaders “look beyond biases in discerning real patterns and anticipating events.” [ix] This strategy enables marketers the opportunity to target customer preferences with greater accuracy—which may facilitate consumer retention and possibly build customer equity over time. Predictive analytics helped Netflix, “substantially improve the accuracy of predictions,” concerning movie preferences, acquiring invaluable insight about consumer-behavior to optimize service with informed decisions. [x]
Moreover, marketers may collect consumer information using internal databases and computer marketing intelligence to observe how consumers interact with brands on social media dialogue. [xi] The latest mobile cellphones—smartphones—“extract intimate insights about consumers,” from a labyrinth of detailed, smartphone user profiles to virtually verify their personal identities. [xii] This tactic, known as “hyper-targeting” may benefit both marketers and consumers by aligning possession of “brand information with the right customers.” [xiii] Therefore, digital communication affords an unparalleled opportunity to build customer equity by matching consumer behavior with customer preferences as detected from mobile advertising companies.
Privacy/Liability Issues: Digital communication presents the intractable challenge of privacy/liability issues if marketers sidestep social responsibility. Social responsibility emphasizes corporate ethics—“seeking ways to profit by capturing the long-term value of customers and communities,” with legally sustainable marketing strategies. [xiv] But companies encounter the challenge of mining consumer information to promote value without violating privacy. If left unaddressed, potential privacy encroachments may not only discourage customers but lead to heightened government intervention.
Marketers may confront this challenge by following the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Code of Marketing and Social Research Practice. The code promulgates researcher responsibilities, requiring them to disclose their personal information with general participants while publicizing information about all data collected. [xv] Such compliance may help mitigate liability risks. Alternatively, “unscrupulous marketers” victimize “millions of unsuspecting consumers” with unwarranted solicitations—directly dispatching, “deceptive, tailor-made, emails.” [xvi]
To strengthen this probative inference, complaints received by the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center Website surpassed “289,000” last year. [xvii] Consequently, these charlatan charades may risk undermining the reasonable efforts of respectable marketers seeking to advantageously exploit digital social media platforms, possibly dissuading dubious consumers. To aggravate matters, the analytical hypertargeting techniques of mobile advertising companies track individual consumers’ digital movements. Hence, marketers encounter the challenge to circumvent corruption—finagling accessible consumer information—with socially responsible temperance and prudence. Marketers tread a tenuous line between “serving and stalking customers.” [xviii] If not tempered, the potential for unbridled manipulation of sensitive personal identity information may create “more harm than benefit to consumers,” consequently culminating in diminished sales. [xix] If taken to extremes, marketers risk abusing privacy.
Risk of Brand Damage:
Similarly, digital technology also risks brand damage.[xx] A brand in marketing vernacular typically refers to the marketing reputation of businesses/professionals among consumers as represented in products and/or services. Preserving a brand remains indispensable because the slightest damage may lead to company insolvency. Assuming such a risk might predispose company dissolution.
However, digital communication presents the conspicuous challenge of brand preservation as blogs present a vitriolic weapon for virulent, vituperative attacks against companies from caustic customers. The dissemination of widely accessible information provides an effortless outlet to express customer dissatisfaction where disgruntled individuals denigrate company reputation with inflammatory invective. Consider Dell. After one blogger’s disparaging diatribes undermined its brand, Dell learned an invaluable lesson—redefine “listening” to include observing digital correspondence from consumers about the company. The Dell paradigm represents a notable challenge in consumer digital communication because it demonstrates how inadequate vigilance risks brand damage.
Nonetheless, by expanding its definition of listening to include not neglecting digital customer service communication, Dell transformed this palpable challenge into a prominent opportunity.[xxi] Dell now implements a 360 degree marketing approach that engages customer by “phone, social media, digital online strategy, traditional media, print advertising, and everything in between.” [xxii] Dell also instituted a social media employee certification training program that tracks approximately “25,000 conversations daily” about Dell—annually exceeding “6 million online conversations.” [xxiii] While digital communication presents the considerable challenge of brand damage, if cursory, companies no longer possess any such excuse to capitulate in complacency as Dell.
Therefore, even if digital communication still risks brand damage, such a risk attenuates in view of Dell’s example, encouraging prophylactic precautions to prevent brand damage. Ultimately, companies need not risk the same fate as Dell. Redefining relationships with consumers, expanding “listening” to encompass multiple fronts, digital communication affords more of an opportunity than challenge if marketers learn from Dell’s example. Generally, this challenge to re-adapt as needed depending on circumstances, becomes a propitious marketing opportunity for profitable growth when companies make customer-value their primary priority. [xxiv]
SWOT—Personal Brand of Michael W. Staib
This section provides my professional summary, accompanied by a SWOT personal brand analysis of myself. This professional summary introduces my overall personal brand—the professional profile. Under SWOT, I introduce five corresponding Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. In summation, my perspicuous professional profile summarizes as follows.
Professional Summary: Michael presents himself as a prodigious polymath with versatility “for all kinds of literature and learning”—the quintessential Renaissance man in contemporary society. Daniel 1:17. This cerebral curiosity—an incessant, unquenchable thirst for knowledge—distinguishes his genius. A rapacious reader, Michael’s insatiable intellectual inquisitiveness encompasses universal subjects, often involving intense debate on esoteric themes. His preternatural acumen incorporates a particular penchant for language, logic, and written analysis. [xxv] He displays a didactic, dynamic demeanor. Known as the walking, talking semantic and human thesaurus by friends, Michael efficaciously exploits his lexicon with linguistic legerdemain. His vivacious vernacular and voluminous vocabulary demonstrate the adroitness of a verbal virtuoso.
This professional summary itemizes as follows under SWOT—acronym represented by (S) Strengths, (W) Weaknesses, (O) Opportunities, and (T) Threats—to describe my personal brand.
(S) Strengths—My personal brand includes the five following strengths:
- Ambitious—industrious, insatiable intellectual inquisitiveness; studious student indefatigably determined to excel in all endeavors; an extremely conscientious individual. As a professional writer, researcher, legal analyst (seasoned paralegal with two years of law school), academic tutor, published author, and aspiring CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) pursuing my MBA at Iona College’s Hagan School of Business, my personal brand demonstrates versatility. This unique versatility may set me apart as more ambitious than others. After all, who, following academic dismissal after completing two years of law school decides to harness related tacit knowledge in an entirely different domain? But the cognitive challenge never ceases to incentivize. Thus, I seek to portably export my overall knowledge, legal sophistication and logical reasoning abilities as aspiring lawyer turned aspiring financial analyst. My cerebral curiosity and desire for professional excellence in a chosen career know no bounds. Thus, my personal brand distinguishes me as uniquely ambitious, with a fervent fire-in-the-belly self-competitiveness to maximize professional potential as theoretically instantiated by “esteem needs” on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of psychological needs.
- Analytical—logical critical thinker and creative problem-solver with superior abstract reasoning ability; possesses excellent conflict-resolution skills. The diversity of tacit knowledge & skills cultivated different experiences likely distinguish me from other aspiring financial investment analysts.
- Communication—compelling communicator as evidenced in extemporaneous speech and writing. A poised, polished public speaker, prolific professional writer, and published author. Again, the intellectual versatility evidenced from various educational and professional experiences distinguish me from other aspiring financial analysts. While brilliant mathematicians and economic experts as stock market aficionados interpreting interpolations in consumer trends to infer plausible outcomes in maximizing investments, few, if any, possess my almost proprietary skillset. With a bachelor degree in History, Law minor, seasoned paralegal experience, two years of law school, accompanied by experience as professional writer, academic tutor, and published author, few, if any, financial analysts possess my innovative verbal abilities. Likewise, few, if any, possess my overall broad knowledge in many different intellectual disciplines, none of which I myself boast in exhibiting. Nevertheless, these marketable skills may differentiate me as competitive among other gifted financial analysts because my personal brand incorporates rare versatility and wisdom gleaned from the apperception of cumulative experiences.
- Enthusiastic—optimistic, encouraging, and engaging conversationalist; develops productive relationships with individuals in all environments. As the quintessential, quasi-extroverted ambivert, my unusually balanced personality also distinguishes me from others. In my love of people, I savor meaningful interaction with others—but simultaneously appreciate quality, solitary time for introspection. Indeed, I appreciate time with others no less than time invested alone ensconced in sedulous study or spiritual reflection. This balance of appeal I exude—equally valuing collaborative interaction and independent detachment—offers another intangible attribute to differentiate my personal brand. My impassioned, enthusiasm for life extends to everything—a distinguishing soft skill feature. This quality also illustrates a well-roundedness to my magnanimous, multi-dimensional personal brand which others of ability may lack. Where others disengage, I pursue all with unmitigated zeal. Moreover, my contagious ebullience may incentivize participation from the typically timid, taciturn personalities.
- Integrity—honest, loyal, trustworthy, reliable, and exudes exceptional work ethic. Maintains high standards of excellence. As a spiritual disciple of Jesus Christ, I desire nothing more than to exude truth in all pursuits. Honest, hardworking, and genuine in my sentiments with others, this intangible quality also distinguishes me professionally because others tend to divide their duplicitous lives. Moreover, I value above all consistency in every aspect of my life. Unlike others who refuse to practice what they preach, I always speak the truth. Thus, my personal brand builds customer value as someone who genuinely cares about others, always providing a candid answer to questions inquired. This consistency in all areas of life legitimizes my personal brand with others, which appears less inclined to hypocrisy or double-minded philosophies than individuals not as ambitious about integrity.
(W) Weaknesses. The following five weaknesses accompany my personal brand:
- Perfectionism—Sometimes one’s greatest strength becomes a fatal flaw. Perhaps perfectionism constitutes mine. My over-analytical acumen constantly seeks to perfect. A Type A tendency to overwork too accompanies this trait. As an overachiever, I sometimes obsess over details, frequently to the precipice of frivolous fastidiousness. I consider myself both a process-oriented and “bottom-line” kind of guy, persistently persnickety over picayune peccadilloes, perfecting minute issues to maximize end results. For example, after our Loreal Presentation, I initially sent an email to Jenna and Ellie requesting the latest PowerPoint update. In the email I sought group consent as imprimatur to authorize my original decision of dispatching Dr. Martins our work product. Though when Ellie agreed but described the request as “unnecessary,” I later dismissed my initial cockamamie request. Soon I realized the ridiculousness of my awakening thoughts that next morning. After all, Dr. Martins probably graded the presentations during and/or immediately after presenting as suggested from her commentary about our “excellent performance.” How inconsiderate of me thinking to bombard my professor with such useless information, as if her life revolves around our presentation! How self-centered. The initial thought seemed even more ridiculous when our grades arrived, revealing our propitious results. Fortunately, I came to my senses ahead of time. Still, the obsessive preliminary ideation to act with due diligence in ensuring superior quality following our Loreal presentation manifested psychologically as a symptom of my perfectionism.
Furthermore, a perennial workaholic, I frequently work myself to illness in my industriousness, seeking A-1 performance at every pursuit. In this way, sometimes I work relentlessly harder, but fail to work strategically smarter. This trait may contribute to further stultify time-management and overall progress. Meanwhile, I know better, as generally, give or take, the “20% most efficient resources and/or time allocation,” tend to yield purportedly, plus/minus, “80% of productive output.” [xxvi]
Ironically, despite this conventional wisdom manifest by the laws of nature, I become “lazy” in my workaholism, sometimes, “sublimating everything—family, leisure, friends, church—to career/school.”[xxvii] Still, I overwork. Then, if inefficiency plagues my overwrought, desiccated acumen, i.e. decelerated progress or rare moments of writer’s block, I become self-critical and sometimes blame myself for not accomplishing the lofty agenda set. This pathologically pernicious, sinful psychological and spiritual pattern of behavior often perpetuates on a routine basis for me amid time-pressured deadlines. As my own worst critic, self-dissatisfaction arises with slower progress and/or work product.
Consequently, my striving to achieve near perfection even anesthetizes appreciation of actual work accomplished. Indeed, “pride goes before destruction.”[xxviii] But rather than let the “Judge” continue deluding me into some “rational justification,” for “badgering shortcomings,” “desensitizing to achievements, I instead, “give God the judging.” [xxix] To relinquish this ego-driven criticism, I thank Jesus for the strength derived from weakness. Then I “delight in my weakness” as Christ reminds me how He “perfects me” through “weakness,” miraculously move monumental mountains with His work for me.[xxx] Consummate contentment resumes as I again rejoice with an “inner peace that surpasses all understanding.” [xxxi] Why? No condemnation exists in Christ, as a “fearful and wonderful creation of God.”[xxxii]
- Time-Management—As aforementioned, my perfectionism at times leads to unbalanced time management. Sometimes I fail to properly prioritize. For example, I may invest inordinate time with one assignment, but inadequately on another. If mindful of this happening, I try to remove myself from the situation. To counteract this weakness I find salubrious spiritual diversions, implementing the foregoing, but with prayer, scripture reflection, walking, and/or brief exercise. The endorphins engendered help me to subsequently re-immerse in product study. Clarity and efficiency return refocusing me on those metacognitive strategies most likely to yield the 80%+/- output from my 20%+/- most effective effort. [xxxiii] Pareto’s 80/20 Principle again applies with almost universal effect. [xxxiv] But the discipline for me becomes consistency under intense time-pressure/deadlines. Yet, we discipline ourselves for the purpose of Godliness. [xxxv] Discipline might include asking “why we engage in some particular activity,” to identify the obstacle, “make every moment count,” and “moving forward.”[xxxvi] This practice might help mitigate distraction. Ultimately, prioritization remains key.
- Language Obsession—This issue overlaps the immediately aforementioned weakness. I often exhibit a tendency to become excessively absorbed with words, especially when not mindful. If not careful, the profusely proliferating thoughts in my mind may lead words to run away with me ( humor intended). A desire to elicit laughter with my characteristically idiosyncratic, stochastic sophomoric sense of humor in all its zaniness, sometimes accompanies this trait in ordinary conversation (as shown here—humor intended). Other times my presumptuous predilections for alliteration motivate me (as also referenced, pardon the hackneyed homily—humor). However, this tendency appears occasionally in writing too. Also, I suffer from a severe case of perennial “pun-dacitis”—perverse penchant for punning (my proprietary patent), laced with meretricious language and magniloquent metaphors. My love for language frequently gets the best of me, as I compromise concision with color. For example, to describe my verbose prose, I might include in a phrase, “the garish grandiloquence of my garrulous gobbledygook.” Frankly, I even deliberately designed this paragraph along with the foregoing professional summary to showcase my loquacious logorrhea. The effervescent embellishment here also serves to emphasize this point. Florid, flowery, flamboyant phrases flow autonomously throughout my speech in an emphatic, effortlessly effusive way. Indeed, I get carried away. Thus, I cut the fluff. Actually, my law school education ameliorated much of this issue, with professors who placed a premium on getting straight to the point. Inculcating discipline, I quickly learned the value of succinctness.
Still, I may occasionally struggle simplifying thoughts efficiently on command. Sometimes I forget to revise the exponential ideas that quickly imbue my brilliant brain. This weakness appears to contemporaneously coincide with perfectionism. For instance, disparate working memory deficits compared to my overall superior intelligence sometimes preclude me from capturing the most apt word or phrase initially excogitated.
As I struggle to remember the initial thought, my mind may complicate sentences with extraneous information. I may sporadically stammer, stumble, stutter, and pause, sometimes unnecessarily adding empty words as fillers—e.g., consider our Loreal presentation—until my mind recalls the precise phrase. I may obsess in a moment to recall the verbatim word or sentence portion. Similarly, I search unrelentingly for words, active verbs, adjectives, and eloquent syntax, to feature information in the most favorable manner possible. Again, perfectionism perhaps compounds the problem. My punctilious precision often leads to needless repetition. Indeed, I reiterate explanations of the same subject, repeating multiple times in different words to maximize others’ comprehensions. Likewise, I seek every effort to minimize ambiguity—as my words may suggest multiple, conflicting interpretations.
This weakness not only projects an appearance of pretentious periphrasis—incorporating inordinate verbiage—but may instigate confusion and/or impatience among others who perhaps prefer conciseness. If not tempered, this issue may undermine my overall marketability, perhaps proving especially problematic in financial analysis where people demand simple explanations for complex information. For example, as one equity analyst verbatim asserts, “I could have done the most brilliant analysis out there, but it would be for naught if I couldn’t communicate my thoughts in a manner that fit the portfolio manager’s style.”[xxxvii] Inherent in this assertion assumes the verbal versatility to incorporate a varied vernacular one diversely tailored toward multiple communication styles as suited for different personalities. This kind of cognitive channeling generally constitutes a learned skill cultivated with practice. But this acquired resource of “speaking with management teams, frontline employees and product-end users” is no less important than, “crunching numbers in Excel.” [xxxviii] Pithy explanations remain paramount.
Therefore, I discipline myself. With a conscious effort to succinctly streamline and simplify, I cut any unnecessary circumlocution. Sometimes annotating thoughts on note paper helps me to more mindfully address this issue as it arises. Likewise, I return to different assignments from my academic history that required more plain-spoken language. Other times, I refer to books such as “Strunk’s Element of Style.” Even so, I seek to slash words and sentences. Limiting sentence size helps. Generally, I try to keep sentences 25 words maximum. Occasionally, I may exceed this threshold. Still, the effort matters. Likewise, I vary sentence length and structure. For persuasiveness, short, staccato sentences typically follow longer ones, oscillating from lengthy to laconic, synchronous with the rhythm of a swinging pendulum. Additionally, I remind myself to opt for simpler, smaller words.
After all, “a word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” [xxxix] As wisdom teaches, I need to “let my words be few” and “always seasoned with grace.”[xl] These virtues reinforce acceptance, an assumed trust in others understanding my words the first time spoken without requiring further clarification, unless specified otherwise. Why belabor the point? Such superfluous belaboring may counterproductively detract listeners. Nonetheless, this issue continues to abate, strategically refined in time, with wisdom reinforced from experience. Ironically, it appears the rambling here, thundering along for three paragraphs, substantiated my point. The habit warranted a mention. Therefore, I tersely temper my tongue, substituting prolix with pithiness where proper. [xli] Often “less is more.”
- Lack of Filter: This prior segment on taming speech also segues into my other fatal flaw—a brutally honest, harsh tongue to reflect the brusque truth. This habit emerges with even greater frequency if frustrated. When it reveals its grotesque visage, friends at times even approached with the gentle admonishment, “Michael, speak the truth with love.” [xlii] Sometimes this quality deeply disconcerts me as one who desires no more than to reflect the love, compassion, and humility of Christ. However, often I fail to realize how much my sincere, well-meaning words hurt. But then again, “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” [xliii] Still, “there is a time and place for every season under the Sun.” [xliv] Yet, finding that timing demands disciplined discernment. [xlv] People ask my honest opinion, and I too freely give it. This lack of a filter, if not properly tempered, predisposes the possibility of turning away quality people—translating into shoddy citizenship—deterring productive work. [xlvi]
- Aggressiveness: Sometimes my outgoing extraversion in a particular venue risks inadvertently intimidating others. For example, I may not realize how others might misperceive my ambitious assertiveness seizing opportunities in certain circumstances—i.e. introducing myself openly to strangers at a social gathering. This perceived aggressiveness may also lead others to conclude a weakness of overconfidence in ability and esteem. Thus, I unintentionally violate boundaries alarming others with my genuinely gregarious demeanor as others may become uncomfortable adjusting to such a bold personality, in gauging their initial impression of me. Often my failure to show the same reservations, may induce a preliminary distrust or defensiveness, as people may not understand why I treat them with such open respect. They may sometimes misjudge my intent, speculating an ulterior motive, misperceiving me as some smooth, schmoozing, superficial sycophant suck-up seeking ingratiation or appeasement. They may mistake me for a swindler. Others may take me for a haughty, hubristic, histrionic hedonist deriving narcissistic pleasures, chasing people to garner the thrill of attention. Either way, I care not. But I care about shining the sincere love, compassion, kindness, and humility of Christ with a contrite heart. Also, I care that others receive such love, not only for salvation, but to truly experience the friendly warmth and affection of another human being who values their self-importance. Hence, this desire that others experience such love, Christ’s overwhelming presence in another, becomes a subsidiary extension to my personal ministry serving people. Nonetheless, the maturity cultivated from experience helps me curtail my forwardness, by giving people a chance to first approach me.
But beneath the bravado and braggadocio of my bombastic badinage, bantering with others for cheap thrills, rests a Christ-esteemed individual who genuinely loves people. Therefore, I exhibit “gentleness” piquing others’ curiosity with a subject of interest. [xlvii] Additionally, I listen before speaking. [xlviii] This strategy reaffirms their self-worth. Afterward, I may transition the conversation into some related topic as the springboard for a sanguine greeting, introducing myself. An amicable smile too tends to establish rapport. Thus, our presence exerts a profoundly positive influence to cordially address others. So the aphorism proceeds, “we catch more bees with honey.”
(O) Opportunity—Five Favorable Opportunities for Aspiring Financial Analysts
- Job Growth: An updated 2015 O*NET OnLine report purports “faster than average—15% to 21%” projected job growth into 2022 for financial analysts. The site also putatively predicts 100,900 job openings from 2012-2022.[xlix] Thus, job growth appears auspicious.
- Salary: According to the BLS, financial analysts earned $92, 250 in 2014, with some within security and commodity exchanges earning approximately $59.81 per hour. [l] The 2012 BLS report revealed “$90,560” for those specializing in securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments/related activities.
- In 2012, financial analysts displayed a median annual salary of $76, 950, with earnings exceeding “$148,430” for the top ten percent. [lii] Salaries in 2013 ranged between $60,010 and $106,470, with a median of $78,380 from the 25th to 75th[liii] O*NET reports a 2014 median salary of $78, 620. [liv] However, with seasoned investment experience, educational attainment, e.g. MBA/CFA, and depending on individual circumstances salaries may increase to $ 1 million, excluding performance based bonuses. [lv] Though perhaps inflated, these alleged figures still demonstrate the significant lucrative potential for financial analysts. The concomitant advantage of a promising salary enhances attractiveness.
- Intellectually Rewarding: The financial analyst’s versatile skillset—logical inductive/deductive reasoning, “critical thinking, creative problem-solving, written/oral expression, economic theories, statistics, mathematics, law and government” offer an unprecedented opportunity for intellectual hypertrophy. [lvi] This versatility fervently fuels my inextinguishable flame for learning. [lvii]
- Work Styles: O*NET OnLine enumerates among its work styles that the job of a financial analyst generally requires, “attention to detail, stress tolerance, dependability, integrity, and persistence.” [lviii] These attributes seem to align closely with my individual values, personality, and logical thinker mentality. After all, corporate clients entrust financial analysts with a fiduciary responsibility of knowledge and expertise as professionals to manage company finances. A fiduciary relationship reflects one of trust in confidence, here between the agent financial analyst, and principal client. Such trust analogously parallels a disciple’s spiritual relationship with Jesus—the Divine quintessential fiduciary—to whom genuine believers summon in prayer on their behalf. The prudent financial analyst bears a client’s financial issues much like Christ for one’s life burdens, who offers honest guidance as advisor to those in need. Thus, the financial analyst’s work style not only compatibly complements its favorable intellectual rewards but appears consistent with my overall personal brand—ethical, professional problem-solver.
- Work Values: O*NET displays three notable “work values”—“achievement, recognition, and independence.” The sense achievement in such a specialized field—one that incorporates seasoned tangible experience, tacit knowledge and/or CFA/MBA certifications may add ancillary value for some. Others too may relish in the auxiliary recognition of prestige associated with a financial analyst. Still some, including myself, appreciate the subsidiary benefit of independence—to implement individual decisions with, “creativity, responsibility, and autonomy.” [lix] The intellectual, modestly lucrative nature of this field might overlap with independence to spawn even greater creative, autonomous leadership potential and entrepreneurial development in business. With experience, the versatility of a financial analyst in time may cultivate invaluable resources felicitously adapted to almost any other career. Therefore, the work values, particularly independence, become another subsidiary motivation for overall subsequent professional success.
(T) Threats—Five Risks the Financial Analyst Assumes in a Fiercely Competitive Field
Financial analysts face fierce competition. The decision to become a financial analyst requires tremendous commitment not necessarily suitable for everyone. Becoming competitive in this field may necessitate some investment of time and money. Beyond expense, the field tends to assume certain minimum educational thresholds. Consider the following five areas of competitiveness that distinguish a financial analyst.
- CFA Exam: To truly distinguish oneself as professional in this field, an aspiring financial analyst requires specific financial, economic, and critical thinking/analytical skills. The CFA—Chartered Financial Analyst—designation tends to constitute a differentiating factor, sometimes separating amateurs from professionals. The CFA commands special esteem from employers. However, the CFA constitutes a rigorous three part exam. Exam-takers must pass the exam sequentially—pass each respective section—as a precondition to progressing through stages one through three, and before attaining CFA status. In other words, if a test-taker passes levels one and two, but fails level three, that test-taker faces the unenviable dilemma of deciding to re-start at level one. The person must pass all three levels in successive sequence, or begin again at level one. Moreover, passage rates among the general population of test-takers border between 42-53%, with both Levels I & II indicating less than 47% passage. [lx] Successful passage generally requires at least 300 hours of solid, focused preparation.[lxi] Therefore, the CFA offers a challenging threshold for attainment.
- Educational Barriers: O*NET stipulates “bachelor’s degree” as the preferred educational attainment among “84% of respondents.” However, this statistic appears misleading. Beyond the CFA, true competitiveness in today’s increasingly ultra-competitive market of extremely erudite, intelligent professionals almost ineluctably assumes advanced education. For example, the BLS provides that “advanced positions” typically “require a Master’s Degree.” [lxii] While “require” may exaggerate a need if interpreted literally, many companies use advanced degrees as the barometer for professional attainment. But differentiating from others may require one to acquire a diverse skillset. Aspiring financial analysts may consider eventually complementing the CFA with other advanced degrees—MBA, Master’s/Professional Doctorate in Finance, Economics, and/or J.D. (Juris Doctor). These degrees accompanied by significant relevant experience may help to differentiate prospective candidates as intellectually mature, disciplined, responsible, and well-adjusted individuals with bright, flexible minds. Bottom line: A CFA alone without other relevant education and/or experience may severely limit the person’s professional potential as financial analyst in today’s ultra-competitive market. If financially and personally capable, the financial analyst may desire to acquire at least a master’s degree for career advancement. Hence, higher formal education becomes almost a necessity in this field, which, for some, may assume additional barriers to attainment.
- Experience: At minimum, to include the CFA behind one’s name requires four years of experience. [lxiii] These four years of experience exclude time invested to pass the CFA and/or other educational attainment. Furthermore, upper-level financial analyst jobs with higher pay typically require more experience. Financial analysts new to the field frequently experience the fiercest competition.[lxiv] For example, some Wall Street banks allegedly begin recruiting, “top level prospective candidates approximately 18 months before any position becomes available.” [lxv] Why? A greater selection of educated “proactive candidates” may serve as one plausible explanation, strengthening the probative inference that perhaps executives struggle identifying competent workers.” [lxvi] More talent tends to assume greater difficulty discriminating suitable quality for positions, which may translate into heightened competitiveness among the prodigious pool of prospective candidates. Again, others with more experience to complement their education risk increasing competition, perhaps instigating greater difficulty procuring an entry financial analyst position before advancing.
- Long Hours: The aspiring financial analyst assumes to work long hours. An 80 hour work-week may occasionally arise. Any analyst who neglects this assumption and recalcitrantly refuses such hours almost inevitably chooses the wrong profession. If so, become a school teacher instead. Generally, many if not “most” work full-time, with many significantly exceeding “40 hours per week.”[lxvii] This weekly 40 hour investment often excludes out-of-office preparation. Presumably, “1 in 3 financial analysts” invest “between 50 and 70 hours per week.” [lxviii] While this aspect of itself fails to present any major threat, time investment comparison between workers may differentiate competitiveness among resourceful analysts. Commensurate comparisons of hours worked may become a threat if some companies wrongly assume one analyst’s lesser hours translates necessarily into lower productivity. Bosses may fire without warrant. The arduous, exorbitant expense of lawsuits may not reveal a justification. But these risks a financial analyst also assumes. Competitiveness drives the profession. Competitiveness may mean working longer, harder, and smarter than the rest, or lose your job with nothing to attest. Thus, of trends keep always abreast, lest, in this field, you assume to fail the test for success. Pardon the prosody.
- Risk-Taking. As aforementioned, the financial analyst assumes a high stress tolerance. Assumed in that stress-tolerance includes an ability to handle unpredictable consequences from one’s financial advice. Mistakes happen. Circumstances may contradict prudent inferences concerning plausible investment outcomes. Market conditions vary with the volatile, vicissitudes of weather. Stocks frequently fluctuate erratically without any reasonable pattern of consistency. A financial analyst assumes these risks. Assuming these risks also implies strong stress-management skills. Learning to accept circumstances outside one’s control, without letting frustrations accumulate from unfavorable outcomes becomes almost indispensable for the financial analyst. Why? Failure to cultivate coping strategies may threaten the long-standing health and psychological sustainability of an individual easily rattled by largely arbitrary market fluctuations. The future remains unknown. Providing the analyst exercises due diligence in gathering reasonably sufficient evidence as any ordinarily prudent analyst of common expertise, no reason for concern exists. The financial analyst need only perform with highest reasonable standards as anticipated by any other analyst of equivalent knowledge and/or experience. Thus, the inability to manage unpredictable consequences may constitute a threat for some financial analysts. If so, choose another field.
- Observational Research—Two Benefits and Potential Problems.
Observational Research involves gathering primary data by observing people. This section delineates two benefits and potential problems with Observational Research as follows:
Benefit 1—Observes People in Action Rather Than Mere Words
Observational Research transcends mere inquiries, unlike Survey and/or Focus Group Research which superficially assess unreliable opinions, often extracted from unrepresentative population samples. Rather, Observational Research examines how people in action from a relevant demographic might react to particular products beyond simply asking questions. Marketing managers who utilize this method generally elicit greater accuracy by circumventing biased answers to potentially oversimplified questions from some limited group of people. They avoid this issue by observing human behavior because actions usually speak louder than words—which wrongly assumes reliability, neglecting misperception and/or deceptive motives. For example, Fisher Price created an observation lab which observes the reactions of toddlers to new toys. [lxix] If Fisher Price surveyed a small sample of toddlers, assuming arguendo they even answer honestly, Fisher wrongly assumes toddlers know their preferences concerning new toys. Such a survey also assumes without warrant toddlers possess adequate knowledge and/or information about new toys to reasonably infer preferences. Additionally, this assumption imputes a level of sophistication in reasoning perhaps not readily available to the ordinarily intelligent toddler. After all, marketers most likely realize children generally lack, “ability to distinguish between commercial and entertainment or educational content,” let alone “advertising motives” for toys. [lxx] Furthermore, this fallacious methodology inherently assumed in surveys and/or focus groups here may predispose “stealth marketing,” as marketers advantage children by manipulating “gullible” kids’ sentiments. [lxxi] Marketers may even use their flawed assumptions to finagle results, perhaps inveigling reactions that suit advertisement motives. Observational Research eliminates this issue. Instead, Observational Research simply observes people, i.e. these kids, in their natural environment, which likely negates the possibility of deceptive motives since people, particularly young minds, generally lack any reason to behave differently than for any other situation. Why? If people, as with these children in the Fisher example, lack any knowledge of Observational Research employed due to a lab that simulates “natural surroundings,” they most likely lack any reasonable justification for atypical behavior. The naturally-simulated environment probably eviscerates disingenuous motives to behave anomalously because people likely lack knowledge for deception in not perceiving anything different, unusual, or suspicious. Therefore, Observational Research enhances reliability by observing people within their natural environment because people likely perceive no change in surroundings sufficient for deceptive motives. Thus, people’s actions most likely strengthen the probative inference of a more accurate reaction, reducing biases inherently assumed in survey and/or focus group responses.
- Benefit # 2—Observational Research Examines Natural Conversation in Action.
Observational Research also affords marketers the privilege to observe digital dialogue between people. For example, a company may listen into internet correspondence—routinely reviewing online consumer conversations on blogs, social networks, and/or websites about their latest product sold. Granted, awareness of a company’s online marketing practices might dissuade candor among certain reserved, internet savvy personalities less comfortable disclosing opinions. While perhaps less reliable than observing actions, the same reasoning, to an extent, analogously applies. “Naturally occurring” feedback may spark uninhibited dialogue. [lxxii] Others who care not what companies witness may candidly communicate ideas with the hopes of learning from others who experienced certain products and/or services. Moreover, blogs and/or freelance internet articles from professional writers emulating more of an objective, journalistic tone may also yield some impartial insight. For instance, an article review about some product/service might even elucidate consumer behavior, perhaps even substantiated with sources to observational research methods, possibly confirming prior conclusions. These reviews may suggest less deceitful motives with higher ethical publishing standards, requiring writers to maintain some minimum ethos/logos threshold as a prerequisite for publication. If true, this authoritative quality may provide a reliable resource with invaluable insight while further curtailing the effort of gathering additional extrinsic observational research.
- Potential Problem # 1—Observation Limits to Outward Manifestation.
The fundamental flaw with Observation Research remains its limitation to outward manifestations. In other words, observational research evaluates external appearances. But what about intrinsic qualities? While observation may suggest the probative inference of plausible motives and psychological processes among people, it fails to necessarily pinpoint with definitive certainty, “attitudes, motives, and/or private behavior.” [lxxiii] One’s inner thoughts constitutes an unobservable quality. To judge a book by its cover assumes omniscience, eliminating the possibility, and in this circumstance, overwhelmingly likelihood of not knowing about something unseen. How could someone accurately infer an outcome about something one cannot actually observe? One may only speculate possibilities. This issue presents a potential problem for marketers if they permit circular conjecture to form the basis of their conclusions.
- Potential Problem # 2—Difficulties Interpreting Behavior From Observation.
Problem # 1 connects with problem # 2, specifically, that Observational Research fails to transcend the amorphous disconnect between outward appearance and internal thoughts. Ambiguity pervades human behavior. Something ambiguous suggests multiple conflicting interpretations. A physical bodily gesture and/or facial expression may present many multiple conflicting interpretations to others psychoanalyzing the reaction. Beyond ambiguous, human behavior may also exhibit vagueness. Vagueness refers to a general lack of clarity. For instance, the person’s incoherent words and/or impassive facial expressions may such lack definite form as to engender no interpretation. To infer a direct, unambiguous link between outward appearance and specific motives neglects the assumption that appearances sometimes deceive—not always aligning consistently with internal human thoughts. For example, people may behave one way, perhaps suggesting a particular motive with their body language. However, their true thoughts about a situation may not match the behavior they project. Indeed, a person may not only camouflage intent with different behavior, but one person’s intent may also differ from the action others perceive. Hence, the inconsistency between observed traits and inner thoughts obfuscates perception, thereby instigating “difficulty interpreting behavior.”[lxxiv] This obscurity may elucidate a potential problem with Observational Research if pursued without some modicum of suspicion, and unaccompanied by at least another research method. Therefore, if not taken with a grain of salt, Observational Research risks misleading marketers into erroneous conclusions about human behavior, overlooking the possibility that inner thoughts may not parallel physical reactions.
- Buyer Decision Process—Buying a New Car.
This section stipulates the buyer decision process with respect to buying a new car. It specifies each step of the process, providing examples where possible. The 5-step process enumerates as follows:
Car Buyer Process: New car buyers typically engage the following five-step process, instantiated by NIEDB (Need Behavior)—Need Recognition, Information Search, Evaluation of Alternatives, Purchase Decision, & Post Purchasing Behavior.
- Need Recognition. The first step generally involves need recognition. Need recognition occurs when the buyer encounters a need typically triggered either by internal stimuli and/or external stimuli. Internal stimuli stems from, “psychological needs pertaining to the personal gratification consumers may associate with a product and/or service.” [lxxv] For example, the prospective automobile purchaser may associate one’s safe, reliable transportation needs in facilitating a feasible work commute with more basic needs, e.g. compensation translating into money to buy food. Money constitutes an indispensable commodity because it represents the economic source for obtaining basic needs—water, food, clothing, shelter, etc.—in commercialized societies. But people generally must work as a condition precedent to receive money—contractual compensation for the creation of products and/or services. Depending upon one’s circumstances, arriving to work generally requires feasible transportation. For many people transportation to work generally remains impracticable without a high-speed vehicle. They may live quite a distance from work (too far by foot or bicycle), remotely away from the train station, and/or lack resources for bus/taxi services. Those individuals need a car for transportation—some way getting to and from work. In other words, they must buy a car to arrive at work and receive the money needed for basic needs. Thus, internal stimuli incentivizes the functional need—vehicle performance in driving to work for money in satisfying more fundamental needs, e.g. food, water, etc. This internal stimuli may trigger psychological gratification—e.g., desire/ability to purchase a particular brand/make of car—with the need for travel in satisfying basic needs. Conversely, external stimuli refers to the material extrinsic environment—forces outside of a person—that influence consumer purchases. For instance, advertisements promoting a specific car brand/make, etc. (Subaru Forrester) to attract prospective car buyers constitutes external stimuli because it originates from some source, e.g., television, internet, billboards, brochures, etc., beyond the consumer’s psyche. Here, the external stimuli connects with person’s intrinsic stimuli—need for vehicular transportation—to drive desires in personally gratifying purchases. [lxxvi] For example, a Subaru television-commercial connects with car buyer’s work/travel needs in fulfilling fundamental needs, but also stimulates desire to buy the 2015 Subaru Forrester. Therefore, internal and external stimuli combined to satisfy the car buyer’s desire for a new car. [lxxvii]
- Information Search. If the internal and/or external stimuli satisfy need recognition, a car buyer may next proceed to information search. Here, the consumer may consult any of four sources: 1) Personal Sources; 2) Commercial Sources; 3) Public Sources; 4) Experiential Sources. Personal sources include family and friends. The car buyer here might consider information, opinions, advice, etc. from family and/or friends before deciding to buy a specific car. Commercial sources encompasses television, internet, and/or billboard advertising. Here, the consumer may intently examine YouTube advertisements and/or scrutinize television commercials featuring a car of one’s choice. Public sources concern mass media and/or consumer organizations. For example, the prospective car purchaser might converse with others on social media about automobiles, inquiring about specific make/brand/color options concerning specific vehicle preferences. Experiential sources deal with handling, examining, and using the product. A prospective buyer might visit dealerships, test driving model cars, consulting informed car salesman spokespersons to experience and/or learn about the preferred car of choice. The buyer might also peruse dealership brochures, inquiring about available cars within their inventory, ordering methods, and/or contemplating a smorgasbord of accessories. [lxxviii]
- Evaluation of Alternatives. After information search, the examination of alternatives step arises. Here, the consumer extrapolates knowledge generated from information search to evaluate competing brands as potential alternatives. The decision-making process of contemplating different brands commences. [lxxix] For example, the car buyer interested in a 2015 Ford Expedition might compare price values, safety ratings, sizes differences, fuel efficiency, etc. of other SUVs such as 2015 Chevy Suburban.