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The practical sequel to Purple Cow

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An instant bestseller, the book that brings all of Seth's ideas together.

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Why the internet works (and doesn't) for your business. And vice versa.

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The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

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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.

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Seth's worst seller and personal favorite. Change. How it works (and doesn't).

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The Big Red Fez

Top 5 Amazon ebestseller for a year. All about web sites that work.

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The Dip

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V Is For Vulnerable

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We Are All Weird

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Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

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« February 2007 | Main | April 2007 »

Humanification

A clever way of talking about being small: gapingvoid.

It's a great goal. I wonder how many of us can reach it.

The surprising thing is the rarity

Kim points us to this account of over the top recruiting:  An offer you can't refuse. It's not particularly difficult or even expensive, yet it's rare.

The reasons are simple: most recruiters don't really care about hiring the very best people, and/or recruiters haven't yet realized that they are marketers too.

What do I get?

Most marketing (and most business) is usually like this:

Do this and get that.

Figure out what you want, figure out what you need to do to get it, and go do it.

I was thinking about the way my Dad does business the other day. He's been a successful executive (and then entrepreneur) for more than 50 years. I realized that I can't remember one time when he did this to get that.

When he volunteered to run the United Way or the local theatre, or when he helped a local church raise money for a new building, he didn't have an ulterior motive. When he negotiated with the UAW to create a different sort of workforce structure for his plant, it wasn't so he could get more. It was so they could get more. Same thing when he helped dozens of people emigrate from the Soviet Union a few decades ago.

It's been a consistent approach, and it sure seems to work. Consistent as in all the time, not just when it's convenient. It works for a factory in Buffalo but it also seems to work for others... for successful marketers all over the world. Now, more than ever, it's easier to give even when it seems like you're not going to get. The happy irony is that this turns out to be a very effective marketing approach, even though that's not the point.

A few easy google hacks

Need pictures? Try Google Image Ripper v.0.2.0.

Need a phone number? (My cell phone company charges more than a buck a call!). Try 877-520-3463. Free.

Here's an RSS reader.

Save time and hassle with autofill.

Bonus: drag the bookmarklet on this page into your toolbar.

[Notes! The phone number is not incorrect, but we appear to have broken it. The image ripper defaults to not SFW, so you're on your own. The RSS reader still works, though.]

The realistic entrepreneur's guide to venture capital

Optimism is a key to success, but it doesn't necessarily work so well when it comes to VC. Because this is a cottage industry with thousands of players, all with different objectives, it's very easy to keep knocking on doors, just waiting to find the right match. It's also easy to spend a year or more adjusting your business to what each VC asks for ("bring me the broomstick of the wicked witch!" while you could have been out there building a real organization.)

Here are a bunch of conditions that you ought to take seriously before you invest the time and the energy to track down outside money for your great idea:

  1. Investors like to invest in categories they've already invested in. If your business is so new that it's never been tested before, or is in a category VCs hate, think twice.
  2. Investors want you to sell out. As soon as possible. For as much as possible. They have no desire to own part of your company forever.
  3. Investors want to invest in a project that's tested. If you can't make it work in the 'small', why do you think it'll work when it's big?
  4. Being a little better than the market leader is worthless.
  5. Investors don't want you to use their money to cover your losses. They want you to build an asset (a patent, an audience, channel relationships) that's actually worth something.
  6. Investors want someone to run your company who has successfully run a company before.
  7. Investors want to be able to come to one of your board meetings and still make it home in time for dinner.
  8. VCs like curves more than they like cliffs.
  9. There are actually very very few business problems that can be solved with money.
  10. You will probably have to replace many of your employees if you raise money from someone.
  11. VCs understand that being the best in the world (#1) is the place with the biggest rewards, so it's unlikely they will settle for any performance (even a profitable one) that puts you in second or third place.
  12. VCs are very smart and very connected, but they're smart enough to know that their connections and their insights can't fix a broken business.
  13. Investors are very focused on the company, not you. They're not interested in having you take out your original investment or paying you a large salary as profits go up.
  14. Business plans are bogus. The act of writing one is critical, but no one is going to read more than three pages of what you write before they make a decision.
  15. The companies that VCs most want to invest in are the companies that don't need their investment to survive.

[For those keeping track (and I wasn't one of them) this is the #2,000th post since I started this blog a long time ago. Which goes to show you--you can build a really big wall if you start early enough and have enough little bricks].

Digging it out of the ground

Six years ago, in Unleashing the Ideavirus, I wrote, ""Twenty years ago, the top 100 companies in the Fortune 500 either dug something out of the ground or turned a natural resource (iron ore or oil) into something you could hold." This statement was a little hyperbolic, but not by much.      

Teena did some research and sent me numbers on the current state of the list. I sorted it by "Hold" stuff (like a can of Coke) and thought-value added businesses (like computers, pharma or stores). Here's the breakdown:

Aerospace and Defense    7   
Beverages    1   
Chemicals    2   
Food Consumer Products    1   
Food Production    2   
Forest & Paper Products    2   
Household and Personal Products    2   
Industrial & Farm Equipment    2   
Metals    1   
Motor Vehicles & Parts    4   
Petroleum Refining    7   
Pipelines    1   

That's 32% of the list. The rest, the majority, are companies that traffic in ideas, not stuff.

Commercial Banks    5   
Computer Software    1   
Computers, Office Equipment    3   
Diversified Financials    2   
Entertainment    3   
Food & Drug Stores    5   
General Merchandisers    4   
Health Care    6   
Insurance: Life, Health (mutual)    12   
Mail, Package, Freight Delivery    2   
Network and Other Communications Equipment    2   
Pharmaceuticals    4   
Savings Institutions    1   
Securities    4   
Semiconductors and Other Electronic Components    1   
Specialty Retailers    4   
Telecommunications    4   
Wholesalers    5

FAQ power

Fred wanted to post an ad for a job on Craigslist and to add some photos of his workplace. Unfortunately, he didn't know how to do it. So he wrote to them. He points us to this response he got from Craigslist, usually renowned for its tech support:

Unfortunately, we don't offer image hosting for the following categories:

* jobs
* gigs
* services
* resumes

If you'd like to add an image to a post in one of those categories, you'll
need to upload the image to a server somewhere else, then add HTML code to
your post that references that image. (more bad news -- we don't provide
tech support for this task.)

Thanks,
craigslist customer support

Anytime you send someone a note like this, where you basically say, "we're not going to help you, go away," you're doing something unnecessary. Don't tell them to go away, tell them where to go. Worse, if you do it when the person is about to buy something (in this case a help wanted ad) you're leaving money on the table as well.

Posting a picture for an ad on Craigslist is so common that they've got boilerplate for the letters they get asking for help. So why not have a FAQ page for it? (All you need to do is google Craigslist Picture Hosting to learn how... you could write the FAQ in five minutes.) Then, at the bottom of the FAQ, it's easy to say, "We don't support this, but if you have trouble, here are three or four forums where people might be able to help you..."

We now live in a do-it-yourself world. You can ask customers to buy their own tickets, fill out their own forms, support their own software. But pointing them to resources will buy you a lot of loyalty. (And save you a lot of grief).

SquidOffers

Evolution of advertising:
We buy ads. You must watch them.
We buy ads. You have a remote control. You skip them.
We buy ads. You are watching a cable channel.
We send junk mail to your house and spam to your inbox. You delete it.
uh oh.
[Internet]
We buy banner ads, you ignore them.
We buy AdWords ads. We pay by the click. Wow! It works.

Offers And that's where we were until today. The most effective online ad buy is AdSense ,where you bid for traffic and pay by the click. This is permission-based, because your ad shows up next to a Google search or on a relevant page. So the people who are seeing it are the right people. And the click demonstrates that they want to see your page.

The paradox (not necessarily a bad thing) is that the better your ad, the better your offer, the more you pay.

So we invented SquidOffers, which I hope will work for us, and which I fully expect will show up in other places soon. The idea is to combine the voting mechanism of Reddit or Digg or Plexo with the text ad mindset of a Google ad. But instead of an ad, it's an offer.

Make an offer. Pick a category. Pay a small fee ($100 a month). Then, our users vote on the offers. Get a lot of votes and you rank more highly, which means more clicks. And you don't pay for the clicks.

Now there's an incentive to write better and better offers (but they need to be genuine or we boot you). Offer a free sample or a free issue or a consult or an ebook. Be generous. Get permission to follow up.

Over time, we intend to raise the rates as volume increases. For now, a few days into it, it appears to be working. Here's the info.

Choice

Is George Clooney actually a great actor?
Or is he just great at making choices?

In 1789, you had just a few choices. Work for the potter in town, apprentice with your dad, of, if you were really smart, become a clergyman or possibly a teacher. That was it.

Today, not only do you have more choices, the variations in those choices matter more. Obvious choices, like, "should I quit my job today?", necessary choices like, "should I apply for a job at Google or an insurance company?" and more subtle choices--whether or not to start a blog, for example.

The movie business provides us with a clear window on what happens when people make good choices (and bad ones). Very few people--with the exception of Sean Connery or Daniel Craig--have the option of sticking with one movie forever. Everyone else in the industry makes critical choices on a regular basis. Smart choice makers do far better than those that don't work at it. I'm willing to guess the value of smart choices is responsible for a 10 to 100 times difference in lifetime earnings in Hollywood.

I think the same is true for a career in programming, marketing or just about anything else. If you're in the position to start a company, why didn't you do it a year ago? Why not now? If you're a programmer, why didn't you apply to work at YouTube when the getting was good? If you're a marketer, how are you going to spend your time and your money? Not choosing is still making a choice.

Thrill seekers

I now firmly believe that there are two polar opposites at work:
Thrill seekers and
Fear avoiders

Notice that I don't use the word 'risk' to describe either category. More on that soon.

How do we explain the fact that Forbes finds more than 700 billionaires and virtually none are both young and retired? Why keep working?

How do explain why so many organizations get big and then just stop? Stop innovating, stop pushing, stop inventing...

Why are seminars sometimes exciting, bubbling pots of innovation and energy while others are just sort of dronefests?

I think people come to work with one of two attitudes (though there are plenty of people with a blend that's somewhere in between):

Thrill seekers love growth. They most enjoy a day where they try something that was difficult, or--even better--said to be impossible, and then pull it off. Thrill seekers are great salespeople because they view every encounter as a chance to break some sort of record or have an interaction that is memorable.

Fear avoiders hate change. They want the world to stay just the way it is. They're happy being mediocre, because being mediocre means less threat/fear/change. They resent being pushed into the unknown, because the unknown is a scary place.

An interesting side discussion: one of the biggest factors in the success of the US isn't our natural resources or location. It's that so many people in this country came here seeking a thrill. 

So why not call them risk seekers and risk avoiders? Well, it used to be true. Seeking thrills was risky. But no longer. Now, of course, safe is risky. The horrible irony is that the fear avoiders are setting themselves up for big changes because they're confused. The safest thing they can do now, it turns out, is become a thrill seeker.

Who do you work with?

« February 2007 | Main | April 2007 »