4 Essential Skills for eBusiness

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After working over 11 years in online and ebusiness ventures, I’ve found there are four essential skills or competencies to great ebusiness managers and producers:

ANALYTICS & RESEARCH — I put analytics and research together because they are two sides of the same coin to understand users. Can you work with numbers and find trends and develop frameworks? Can you draw relevant conclusions from qualitative research? Analytics involves web site metrics, financial data, and other empirical data and making the connections between them. Research includes usability studies, focus groups, and surveys. Drawing conclusion from each, by themselves, can lead to misleading conclusions. The person who can draw insights from multiple sources, make relevent strategic decisions based upon them, will move a site in a profitable direction.

PERSUASION — I used to call this ‘skill’ marketing communications experience, but that’s too general and too narrow. What you’re looking for is experience in someone who inherently understands human persuasion, in any medium. This can be learned, but for many it’s an innate competence and art. Some better than others can put themselves in the customer’s shoes and work backwards to create an experience that meets the customer where they’re at and can create an experience that will move them to action. Practical experience can come from copywriting, speaking, events, direct mail, PR and other ‘marketing’ activities. This skill is critical for B2C or B2B sites, because we’re all human and any site should move people to action.

TECHNOLOGY — an eBusiness manager or producer doesn’t need to know how to write code. I never really did, but I understand how things work. And from that, I understand what’s possible. This is incredibly valuable in working with IT folks and becoming the ‘translator’ between what a customer wants to do, a potential experience, and how to make it come to life.

INTERACTIVE DESIGN — This is a super-set of skills related to usability, layout, navigation, information architecture…all part of design skills that are critical in ‘designing an experience’. Many marketers working with ‘flat’ design don’t make an smooth transition from to interactive design. They can direct the layout of an aesthetically-pleasing page, but not be on target with a users’ tasks and persona. A rare find is an ebusiness manager who can understand the users, then translate layout elements in a way that makes sense to the user’s tasks, keep consistent brand-relevant design, and not err on the side of being too clever.

How do you find these people? Resume will only tell you they were in the universe of these activities. In an interview, ask for examples of them using all of these skills in past projects. Look for clues that they pulled out subtleties in user insight, created creative design or technology solutions, and understand basic principles within each.

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