Friday, February 10, 2006

What is the magic formula?

Have you ever wondered how "they" figure out how many restaurants any given community can support? I've heard that McD's has an actual formula...

A formula probably exists for every form of critical mass:
  • How many people need to arrive at a house party before people end up having a mini-party in the kitchen. (A good dozen?)
  • How many cats does a woman need before becoming a 'crazy cat lady'. (More than 5? or 3?)
  • How many of any one item can you have before it is a collection. (A friend of mine says, very definitively: "Four.")
The important one for the work that I do is the number of volunteers/workers before someone becomes dissatisfied because they are under-utilized. Volunteers are an interesting breed -- they will work for free, but they do want...a useful task, acknowledgement, self-satisfaction, and opportunities for self-improvement.

I became a member of Bzzagent dot com (you know something? I have no desire to link to them) awhile ago, and at first flush it is a great concept: Use human beings' innate desire to know about something first and tell other people about it for marketing purposes...the company makes money, and their work force is all willing volunteers. Oh, they give rewards based on a point system -- and it is quite generous, if you are offered bzzagent campaigns.

The problem is, I think they've reached critical mass. A lot of recent publicity has them signing up new Bzzagents like crazy, but it hasn't brought in the same proportion of new clients. If you read their company blog, all is transparent and wow-aren't-we-wonderful, but if you read the comments from the actual agents, you'll see a lot of people who are dissatisfied.

No, not just people -- volunteers who are the backbone of their concept, the product that they sell to clients, and the audience for all of their fabulous self-congratulatory promotions.

The formula is now reversed...

How many is too many?
How soon before the volunteers give up waiting to be used?
How much bad publicity will they end up getting? (probably not enough to make any difference)



The Nag said...

The answer to all your questions is.....42.

a h m a d said...

This reminds me of a course I studied in university, Queuing Theory...

It is normal to wait to be served in a restaurant or super market or any other server. If at every time we don't wait at all, it means that the super market is over staffed or not doing good business, while waiting too long means that the super market is under-staffed.

It is an interesting course although I don't remember any formula! :)

glenda said...

good answer.

Lori said...

It's all about balance -- the correct number of X to service the number of Y.

What about the length of time someone waits in a line at a store checkout? Our perception is that time s-l-o-w-s right down, which is why stores often put so many things to look at (and buy) near the checkout lines. (Paco Underhill in Why We Buy studies this and wrote about it. Great book.)