The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.
My previous post got more mail than just about anything I've ever posted before.
As a writer, I'm used to working with editors. A copy editor is a freelancer who fixes my mi
ssspellings, my commas and my grammar. A line editor is someone who makes more aggressive changes, adjusting sentences or paragraphs without substantially altering their meaning. And every once in a while, a real editor, who tells me the truth about my writing and encourages me to discard whole chapters or change the rhythm of what I'm working on.
What I found fascinating about the email I got is that a large number of web people are still hung up on the technology side, on getting the code just right and, to use the analogy, the typesetting, not the words. The reason for this is simple: there's a lot of horrible web coding going on. There are huge gains to be found by overhauling a site and getting the invisible stuff right.
But that's not the opportunity I was talking about. Instead, I'm talking about turning an arrogant checkout into a useful one by turning off the button that automatically resets to opt in to the spam list every single time I return to the checkout. Or changing the size of the product photo from 144 pixels wide to 500, because making the product the star can triple clickthrough.
This is stuff tweakers know because they do it every day. Because they test and they measure. This is high return on investment knowledge, because it can take hours, not weeks to implement and test.
For example, a small businessperson named Dave writes in and says,
"our website is ok for an electronic sign . . . but its a “factory model” . . . as we maneuver through the curves any business experiences I want to accelerate through those turns because of the edge tweaking provides but I don’t want to get into a complete over-haul to do it ... my idea of a “tweaker” is the person who takes us beyond the “factory model” to continue your car and garage analogy . . . someone who says STOP using this its not working and here’s why START using this it does work and here’s why CONTINUE using this and here’s why. . ."
Tom says, "My wife and I hired a designer who was a “tweaker.” She didn’t come in the way most decorators do, with a whole design scheme and lots of new furniture. She took what we already had, pointed out a few targets of opportunity, moved things around and added a few key elements, and for almost no money gave our house a whole new feel. It took a couple of days instead of weeks."
I got plenty of people pointing out that they can't make a living selling to people like Dave and Tom. That Dave is too hard to reach, too cheap, too uncertain about what he wants... that Tom needs too much handholding.
My response is that it's not just Tom or Dave. There's no way Amazon or Eddie Bauer or someone running for the Senate is going to overhaul their site. Certainly no way they're going to do it every four weeks. It's too scary. Too disruptive. Too time consuming. Does every site need tweaking? NO, most need an overhaul. But hey, there's still a lot of sites left that need a tweak, not construction.
The opportunity, as the web becomes more sophisiticated and CSS gets implemented more often, is to figure out how to tweak a page while it's running and get 2% better response from that page. 2% isn't a lot--until you multiply it by a million page views.
My original point of the post was that I was looking for a tweaker for a specific page that we haven't yet launched at Squidoo. The mail I got, though, made it clear that I wasn't the only one.
I think this market problem isn't going to solved by a bunch of hungry tweakers making sales calls. Instead, I think those that need tweaking will go out and find the tweakers. So, that said, I've started a lens on tweakers (it's a unvetted collection of people I heard from) and even better, a Squidoo group on tweakers that will allow anyone who wants tweaker business to build a lens and tell the world about what they do. Now, instead of sending me mail about your tweaking services (stop, please!) you can build a lens and reach a lot of people who are looking for you. In the meantime, I've got a ton of really cool people to contact about our future stuff. Thanks.
If I want my car to go a bit faster, there's a garage in town that will tweak it for me.
If I want my stereo to sound a little better, there's a guy who will install cables and such and upgrade it.
There are more than a billion websites. Where are the tweakers?
Where are the talented individuals and small firms that want a closed-end engagement... not to completely redesign a site that's working, not to do any coding, but just to mess with the html and css a bit.
To take their learning from many clients and figure out that this works better than that.
To change the look and the feel but not the bones... plastic surgery for websites. Not a lot of meetings, not a lot of belief required. Instead, take the new one, take the old one, do a split test and see which one converts better.
I figure if I'm looking for a tweaker, others are too. Send me a few details and I'll post a short list.
I bought some spinach at the farmer's market yesterday. The fact that the woman who grew it is the same person as the woman who sold it to me made the transaction fundamentally different than buying the same spinach in a bag at the A&P. It's not really surprising that factory farming keeps serving us poisons and side effects. It's fundamentally anonymous.
Today, as I was riding my bike along Rt. 9 outside of New York, a teenager in a cream-colored Cadillac Escalade (yes, I got the license plate) threw a bottle at my head. Only a couple inches from serious injury. I'm pretty confident he wouldn't have done it if he had been required to stand in front of me and look me in the eye when he did.
This is the giant advantage of the small. Small organizations have the privilege of looking their customers in the eye. Small doesn't necessarily mean small in numbers. It's an attitude. Does your organization require a form to get something done, or does one human choose to interact with another? Does bad news come in the form of memos that obfuscate the truth, or is it delivered face to face?
Conference Calls Unlimited has gone so far as to practically ban email in communication with clients. They call you after each call to see how it went. When I went to Stanford, the director of admissions called every single person they admitted to share the news. Compare that to the anonymous ALL CAPITAL LETTERS notes you get from your car insurance company.
Here's a fun project for this week: try to do as much as you can in person. Or by phone. Especially the hard stuff.
Yes, I'm kicking them when they're down, but it's important.
A couple of decades ago, Ford had everything. Cash, brand, distribution, political influence, a trained workforce...
Then, through nothing but management hubris and arrogance, they destroyed the company. Making cars is not an unprofitable undertaking, unless you insist on making it one. At just about every turn the company ignored the market, alienated their workforce, distanced themselves from their distribution network, vilified their customers and chose short-term expediency ahead of long-term change. They lobbied to keep gas mileage standards high (doing the opposite would have increased the market for cars). They lobbied to keep SUVs unregulated (and got addicted to a short-term high-profit alternative to cars) and they bought remarkable brands and made them average.
There were hard things they could have chosen to do, things that would have meant change. There were short-term hardships they could have endured to fix their dealer network or reinvent the way they designed and built cars. Instead, they stayed inside the Detroit beltway, played the car game, managed the stock price and paid themselves a fortune.
Monday, when you sit down with your organization to plan the next decade, perhaps you could ask, "what would the top people at Ford do?" and then do precisely the opposite.
Every business encounters angry people. Not disappointed or confused, but actually angry. Here are a few steps you might want to try:
[It’s important to note that so far I haven’t asked you to give them anything or to actually agree with their point of view. Just to understand it and recognize it. You cannot negotiate with an angry person. Doesn’t work.]
Bingo. You’ve changed the dynamic. You’ve made it clear which side of the discussion you’re on. You haven’t set any expectations, but you’ve built a connection.
At this point, you have two options. You can describe what you CAN do, right now, in an attempt to make it up to the person. Or you can ask for time and promise to get back to the person after you’ve checked in with the higher-ups.
It’s entirely possible that the steps above won’t work. It’s entirely possible that Sue is so angry she’ll never ever return to your hotel again. That’s okay. You did what you can... but more important, you didn’t waste a lot of time and emotion and energy trying to solve a problem that’s not solvable.
Griffin does a nice job of summarizing some of the big ideas in the Big Moo:
Read his original post to find the crosslinks.
Most people feel pretty virtuous at Starbucks. It's not really fast food, at least that's what we tell ourselves. Today's Times reports otherwise. It seems that the Large Java Frappuccino has 29 packets of sugar and the equivalent of 11 creamers in it. In one, not in a dozen. If you watched them mix it up, you'd feel different about it, no doubt.
Humans are funny. If something is "baked in", apparently it doesn't count as much.
More powerful than you realize, probably. The reason I killed my email list years ago was that it was too good at provoking a reaction. People are listening (which is good) so you better be very careful what you say and how you say it.
Even better, save your email for things you really and truly want to say.
Take a look at this email, just received from Amazon. Ouch.
Estelle Havva points us to Baltasar Gracián y Morales:
"Know how to sell your wares, Intrinsic quality isn't enough. Not everyone bites at substance or looks for inner value. People like to follow the crowd; they go someplace because they see other people do so. It takes much skill to explain something's value. You can use praise, for praise arouses desire. At other times you can give things a good name (but be sure to flee from affectation). Another trick is to offer something only to those in the know, for everyone believes himself an expert, and the person who isn't will want to be one. Never praise things for being easy or common: you'll make them seem vulgar and facile. Everybody goes for something unique. Uniqueness appeals both to the taste and to the intellect."