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« September 2009 | Main | November 2009 »

Why celebrate Halloween?

Because everyone else does.

Why believe that people once put razor blades into apples and you should only eat wrapped candies? Because everyone else believes it (it's an urban legend).

Most of what we believe is not a result of direct experience (ever seen an electron?) but is rather part of our collection of truth because everyone (or at least the people we respect) around us seems to believe it as well.

We not only believe that some brands are better than others, we believe in social constructs, no shirt, no shoes, no service. We believe things about changing our names when we get married or what's an appropriate gift for a baby shower.

This groupthink is the soil that marketing grows in. It's frustrating for someone who is hyper-fact-based or launching a new brand to come to the conclusion that people believe what they believe, not that people are fact-centered data processing organisms.

Sure, it would be great to have an organization that enjoys the advantage of everyone believing. Getting from here, to there, though, requires stories, emotion and ideas that spread. Organizations grow when they persuade a tiny cadre to be passionate, not when they touch millions with a mediocre message.

Opt in and opt out

Every year, tens of thousands of people die because organ donor status in the US is opt in. If you want to be an organ donor when you're dead, you need to go through steps now to opt in. The default is "no."

Press releases, sent by the billions, seem to have become opt out. If you don't want the barrage of nonsense, PR firms appear to believe that one by one you must alert each and every publicist in the world of your desire to not hear from them.

401 (k) plans tend to be opt in. If you do nothing, you get nothing.

Talking to the police after getting arrested is strictly opt out. Nothing to sign, you just talk.

Cheese on your pasta used to be opt out, but now it appears to be becoming opt in.

Bacon should never be opt out. Sorry, but that's just the way I feel.

I think there are a few general principles that could save us time and money and hassle:

  • If there's a public good involved from a certain behavior, the default should be opt out.
  • If the pressure or cost of opting out is high and it involves a civil right, then opt in is a better choice for our society. (Obviously a potential conflict to the first rule).
  • If a business benefits in aggregate and the consumer is penalized on average, then it's smart public policy for it to be opt in.
  • If your business is going to depend on this connection as an asset, opt in is the way to go. Opt out email is another word for spam.

So, I'd make organ donation opt out, public religious observance opt in, newsletters opt in and smart financial choices opt out. Anything that tricks a consumer into paying for something ought to be double opt in. And without a doubt, email (and commercial transactions of all kinds) are opt in. Smart for both sides.

No need to sneak around. Ask first.

Big ideas...

are little ideas that no one killed too soon.

What you buy when you buy a lottery ticket

Hint: you don't buy a future of money.

People who win the lottery are almost always unhappy in the long run, and most of them continue to buy lottery tickets.

It's not the destination, it's the journey. Same thing with first dates, blog posts, opening presents and answering a phone call from a stranger.

The thrill of possibility, the chance for recognition, the chemical high of anticipation. That's what people pay for.

Some people are better than others

By 'better', of course I mean better customers, better prospects, better sneezers, better at spreading the word.

Here are two interesting lessons from the book industry:

  1. Kindle readers buy two or three times as many books as book readers. Why? I don't think it's necessarily because using a Kindle leads someone to read more books. I think it's because the kind of person who buys a lot of books is the most likely person to pony up and buy a Kindle. I know that sounds obvious, but once you see it this way, you understand why book publishers should be killing themselves to appeal to this group. After all, the group voted with their dollars to show that they're better.
  2. Walmart and other mass marketers are now offering top bestsellers for $9 or less each, about $5 less than their cost. Why? Why not offer toasters or socks as a loss leader to get people in the store? I think the answer is pretty clear: people who buy hardcover books buy other stuff too. A hardcover book is a luxury item, it's new and it's buzzable. This sort of person is exactly who you want in your store.
The challenge, then is to look for cues that people give you that they are better, and then cater to them. Every industry has people who are worth more, buzz more, care more and buy more than other people. Don't treat people the same, find the ones that matter more to you, and hug them.

Dunbar's Number isn't just a number, it's the law

Dunbar's number is 150.

And he's not compromising, no matter how much you whine about it.

Dunbar postulated that the typical human being can only have 150 friends. One hundred fifty people in the tribe. After that, we just aren't cognitively organized to handle and track new people easily. That's why, without external forces, human tribes tend to split in two after they reach this size. It's why WL Gore limits the size of their offices to 150 (when they grow, they build a whole new building).

Facebook and Twitter and blogs fly in the face of Dunbar's number. They put hundreds or thousands of friendlies in front of us, people we would have lost touch with (why? because of Dunbar!) except that they keep digitally reappearing.

Reunions are a great example of Dunbar's number at work. You might like a dozen people you meet at that reunion, but you can't keep up, because you're full.

Some people online are trying to flout Dunbar's number, to become connected and actual friends with tens of thousands of people at once. And guess what? It doesn't scale. You might be able to stretch to 200 or 400, but no, you can't effectively engage at a tribal level with a thousand people. You get the politician's glassy-eyed gaze or the celebrity's empty stare. And then the nature of the relationship is changed.

I can tell when this happens. I'm guessing you can too.

Begrudging

I don't know if this happens to you, but I'm noticing it more and more. Someone offers you a refund, or agrees to sell you something or even hires you to do a project, but then spend a lot of time explaining that it's a one time thing, or that it's against policy or it's not even something they like to do.

What's the point of agreeing to anything begrudgingly? Does it get your partner to do his best work? Does it increase the chances that you'll get to win next time?

If you're going to do something, do it. Go all in. Doing it half in makes no sense at all to me. It's a like a store that has so many rules and regulations about sales and exchanges that you wonder if they really want to be bothered to sell you anything at all.

The best podcast/radio show of all time

If you drive a fair amount and have an ipod, it's essential that you visit radiolab and see what they've been up to.

You can easily (and for free) subscribe to their podcast in iTunes and listen to every one of their past shows. I'm hoarding them, saving each one for a drive that deserves it, because they don't make new ones fast enough.

The content of each show is a unique mix of science, pop culture and relevance. I guarantee that they will make you smarter. That's a lot to promise for a radio show, but I think it's true.

And the production demonstrates that even when a medium is 90 years old, it's possible to reinvent it. They make the flat and linear structure of radio old fashioned. These guys are the real deal, and I'm privileged to recommend them to you.

Trolls

Lots of things about work are hard. Dealing with trolls is one of them. Trolls are critics who gain perverse pleasure in relentlessly tearing you and your ideas down. Here's the thing(s):

1. trolls will always be trolling
2. critics rarely create
3. they live in a tiny echo chamber, ignored by everyone except the trolled and the other trolls
4. professionals (that's you) get paid to ignore them. It's part of your job.

"Can't please everyone," isn't just an aphorism, it's the secret of being remarkable.

The joy of quitting

The governor of New York faces an interesting choice.

He can do the natural thing, the thing with momentum, the thing he's been trained to do his entire life: run for a full term. That involves raising a lot of money, living on the road, compromising a lot to gain support and almost certainly losing, probably in the primary.

Or, he can quit. He can win the embrace of his party, of power brokers and his family by quitting now, as opposed to losing later.

It's hard to see a better illustration of the Dip. In elections, you win or you lose. He's almost certain to lose. The dip is deep and long and essentially unsurvivable. If he quits now, anoints an electable successor, acts as a power broker and walks away while he can, he gets to choose his next life. If he runs and wins, that's terrific. But if he runs and loses... not so good.

I can understand why it's hard for him to quit. It's unnatural. But that doesn't mean that he (and the rest of us) can't profit from deciding in advance when to quit (before the market decides for us).

[This video of Richard Nixon doing a sound check before his resignation captures the freedom he felt once he decided that he was truly stuck in the Dip. After the decision, going down the path is the easy part.]

Consistent, persistent generosity

That might be exactly the strategy you need to have an impact on the market.

Consistent as in not stopping to say, "my turn." Persistent as in long-lasting, not as in annoyingly over the top. And with permission, because interacting without delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages is a waste at best, annoying at worst.

Top this!

Diablo Cody on the pressure to outdo herself:

So what kind of pressure did you feel, post-Juno, to write something good?
None.

I don’t believe you.
Seriously. How could I possibly? The experience that I had with Juno is something I could never replicate, ever. First of all, you never have your first baby again. Second, the whole production was really charmed from start to finish. I mean, every moment of it was special. And then it culminated in Oscar nominations...I’m so fortunate that I got to have that experience. Now I almost feel this great calm coming over me. I’d be feeling a lot more pressure if I was still striving for that goal.

Sometimes, the work is the work and the goal isn't to top what you did yesterday. Doing justice to the work is your task, not setting a world record.

Empathy

I have no idea what it's like to be pregnant.

And for most of us, we have no idea what it's like to have $3 to spend on a day's food, or $4,000,000 to spend on a jet. We have no idea what it feels like to be lost in a big city, no idea how confusing it is to go online for the first time, no idea what it's like to own four houses.

Marketers and pundits and writers and bloggers and bosses pretend they are empathetic, but we never can be. Sure, we can try, we can be open to cues and sensitive to clues, but no, we don't really know.

Being certain about how someone else feels or what motivates them is foolish. Don't declare that you know exactly why someone made a choice or predict what someone is going to do next, and why. It's a great parlor trick, but you're probably going to be wrong. (I think the one universal exception is fear. We all know what it means to be afraid, and fear doesn't change based on income or gender. The causes change, but the fear remains the same.)

Empathy is a hugely powerful marketing tool if we use it gently, being sure to leave lots of room for error. When we say, "oh, you did that to make a quick buck or you did that because you hate that guy or you did that because you're a man..." we've closed the door to actually allowing people to write their own story and you make it difficult to learn what actually makes them tick.

True believers (and the truth)

The internet has amplified the volume of the true believers, the defenders of any faith.

If you're into high end stereo, it's far easier to find strident voices in defense of $100,000 stereos than ever before. If you have strong views on health care (either side) it's not hard to find the orthodox and articulate believers. It's not just specialty magazines or conferences any longer. The true believers are in our faces every day.

When you lead a tribe, the volume and accessibility of the true believers is a good thing. They're easy to find and they maintain order and create a culture for the group you're leading.

The problem is that these loud voices may be loud, but they might not be right.

If you want them to write glowingly about your company's new stereo, you'll make one that's so obscure and expensive you won't sell very many. If you want them to adore your new restaurant, it might be so edgy and cutting edge that not enough people will actually come and you'll go under.

Go check out the track record of the loudest believers in your industry. They're wrong far more than they are right. In fact, when they love a new tech product or candidate, it might just be the jinx that guarantees failure.

The truth of the market is that the market you sell to isn't filled with true believers. It's filled with human beings who make compromises, who tell stories, who have competing objectives. And as a result, the truth of the market is that the products and services that win (if win means you can make a good living and make positive change) are rarely the products and services that are beloved without reservation by the true believers.

Fear of apples

At the farmer's market the other day, not one but three people (perfect strangers) asked me what sort of apple to buy. What do I look like, some sort of apple expert? Apparently.

In our industrialized world, people are now afraid of apples. Afraid of buying the wrong kind. Afraid of making a purchasing mistake or some sort of pie mistake.

And they're afraid of your product and your service. Whatever you sell, there are two big reasons people aren't buying it:

1. They don't know about it.

2. They're afraid of it.

If you can get over those two, then you get the chance to prove that they need it and it's a good value. But as long as people are afraid of what you sell, you're stuck.

People are afraid of tax accountants, iPods, chiropractors, non-profits, insurance brokers and fancy hotels. They're afraid of anything with too many choices, too many opportunities to look foolish or to waste time or money.

Hey, they're even afraid of apples.

"Notice me"

If the new web has a mantra, that's it.

So much time and effort is now put into finding followers, accumulating comments and generating controversy... all so that people will notice you. People say and do things that don't benefit them, just because they're hooked on attention.

Attention is fine, as long as you have a goal that is reached in exchange for all this effort.

Far better than being noticed:

  • Trusted
  • Engaged with
  • Purchased from
  • Discussed
  • Echoed
  • Teaching us
  • Leading

The Rule of High School

Any sufficiently overheated industry will eventually resemble high school. High school is filled with insecurity, social climbing, backbiting, false friends, faux achievements, high drama and not much content. Much of this insecurity comes from a market that doesn't make good judgments, that doesn't understand how to reliably choose between alternatives. So it turns into a popularity contest.

As Tom Hanks reportedly said, "Hollywood is like high school, but with money."

Or the fashion magazine industry, which is high school but with more makeup.

Add to that the Internet, which is like high school but with a modem.

Or Twitter, which is high school but only 140 characters at a time.

As in high school, the winners are the ones who don't take it too seriously and understand what they're trying to accomplish. Get stuck in the never ending drama (worrying about what irrelevant people think) and you'll never get anything done. The only thing worse than coming in second place in the race for student council president is... winning.

The problem with cable news thinking

Not only the networks of all political persuasions that come to mind, but the mindset they represent...

When I was growing up, Eyewitness News always found a house on fire in South Buffalo. "Tonight's top story," Irv Weinstein would intone, "...a fire in South Buffalo." Every single night. If you watched the news from out of town, you were sure that the city must have completely burned to the ground. 

Cable news thinking has nothing to do with fires or with politics. Instead, it amplifies the worst elements of emotional reaction:

  1. Focus on the urgent instead of the important.
  2. Vivid emotions and the visuals that go with them as a selector for what's important.
  3. Emphasis on noise over thoughtful analysis.
  4. Unwillingness to reverse course and change one's mind.
  5. Xenophobic and jingoistic reactions (fear of outsiders).
  6. Defense of the status quo encouraged by an audience self-selected to be uniform.
  7. Things become important merely because others have decided they are important.
  8. Top down messaging encourages an echo chamber (agree with this edict or change the channel).
  9. Ill-informed about history and this particular issue.
  10. Confusing opinion with the truth.
  11. Revising facts to fit a point of view.
  12. Unwillingness to review past mistakes in light of history and use those to do better next time.
If I wanted to hobble an organization or even a country, I'd wish these twelve traits on them. I wonder if this sounds like the last board meeting you went to...

Creating sustainable competitive advantage

No successful web company (not eBay, Flickr, Amazon, Facebook...) succeeds because of a significant technological barrier to entry. It's not insanely difficult to copy what they've done. Yet they win and the copycats don't.

Few organizations succeed in the long run because of proprietary technology. Not Starbucks or CAA or Nike, certainly. Not Caterpillar or Reuters either.

Technologists often tell me, "this product is very hard to build, that will insulate us from competition and protect our pricing." It might. For a while. But once you're successful, the competition will figure out a way. They always do.

So, what to do?

  • You can own something that's hard to copy (like real estate).
  • You can race down the pricing and scale curve, so it's cheaper for you to do what you do because you have a head start.
  • You can create switching costs, so that the hassle and cost of moving to a cheaper competitor is so great, it's just not worth it.
  • You can build a network (which can take many forms--natural monopolies are organizations where the market is better off when there's only one of you).
  • You can build a brand (shorthand for relationships, beliefs, trust, permission and word of mouth).
  • You can create a constantly innovating organization where extraordinary employees thrive.


The reason the internet is such a home to wow business models is that it's easier to create a network here than any other time in history.

Make a decision

It doesn't have to be a wise decision or a perfect one. Just make one.

In fact, make several. Make more decisions could be your three word mantra.

No decision is a decision as well, the decision not to decide. Not deciding is usually the wrong decision. If you are the go-to person, the one who can decide, you'll make more of a difference. It doesn't matter so much that you're right, it matters that you decided.

Of course it's risky and painful. That's why it's a rare and valuable skill.

Two seminars in November

[NOW SOLD OUT.

Thanks to everyone who signed up.]

I haven't done a public seminar in six months or so. It's clearly time.

All the details are here. There is one in New York City on November 19th and for the first time, a small roundtable session in my office on November 13th. The small session is by application only.

If you're interested in either one, I hope you'll sign up soon, because they sell out quickly.

Hope to see you there.

Apparent risk and actual risk

There are people who I will never encounter in a restaurant.

That's because when these people go out for dinner, they go to chain restaurants. These are the tourists in New York who seek out the familiar Olive Garden instead of walking down the street to Pure.

That's fine. It's a personal choice.

But it got me thinking about the difference between apparent and actual risk, and how that choice affects just about everything we do.

The concierge at a fancy hotel spends her time helping tourists and business travelers avoid apparent risk. She'll book the boring, defensible, consistent tour, not the crazy guy who's actually a trained architect and a dissident. She'll recommend the restaurant from Zagats, not from Chowhound.

Apparent risk is what keeps someone working at a big company, even if it's doing layoffs. It feels safer to stay there than to do the (apparently) insanely risky thing and start a new venture.

Apparent risk is what gets someone who is afraid of plane crashes to drive, even though driving is more dangerous.

Apparent risk is avoiding the chance that people will laugh at you and instead backing yourself into the very real possibility that you're going to become obsolete or irrelevant.

When things get interesting is when the apparently risky is demonstrably [less safe] than the actually risky. That's when we sometimes become uncomfortable enough with our reliance on the apparent to focus on the actual. Think about that the next time they make you take off your shoes at the airport.

Traction and friction

A big car on a wet frozen lake goes nowhere. No traction, no motion.

A small bug working its way across a gravel driveway takes forever. Too much friction, too little motion.

If you're stuck, it's probably because one of these two challenges.

There's not enough traction online. Too many choices, too few boundaries. It's easy to get stuck because there's nothing to push off of, no box to think outside of.

There's too much friction in stuck industries. The walls have been expanded for so long, you just can't get over them.

The power of online platforms is that they create traction. No, you can't write more than 140 characters, no you can't design any layout you want, no you can't spam everyone with your inane sales pitch. You have something to leverage against, but it's that thing, the friction, that makes it work.

The best marketers I know make up rules for themselves and they don't break them. It's very easy to surrender to the moment and walk over to the next hill. It's more productive to climb this hill instead.

When will the world make fun of you?

Tom's Shoes continues to make a difference, combining an innovative business model with brilliant storytelling.

Which leads to parodies, of course, which Tom's loves. Spread the word, share the story. If it's worth telling, it's worth parodying. When will we be able to parody what you do?

The last one is the real deal, of course. (PS here's the correct address if you're an ecommerce rockstar looking for a job at Tom's: ecommerce@tomsshoes.com).

The three elements of full employment

You will never be out of work if you can demonstrably offer one of the following:

  • Sales
  • Additive effort
  • Initiation

Sales speaks for itself. If you can sell enough to cover what you cost and then some, there will always be someone waiting to hire you.

Additive effort is distinguished from bureaucracy or feel-good showing up. Additive effort generates productivity far greater than the overhead you add to the organization. If your skills make the assembly line go twice as fast, or the sales force becomes more effective, or the travel office cuts its costs, then you've produced genuine value. That surly receptionist at the doctor's office--she's just filling a chair.

The third skill is the most difficult to value, but is ultimately the most valuable. If you're the person who can initiate useful action, if you're the one who makes something productive or transformative happen, then smart organizations will treasure you.

"What do you need me to do?"

This is a question that defines the person asking it. It is very different from, "here's what you might need..."

If you ask people for the next task on the list, if you allow them to define the thing they are buying from you, you have abdicated responsibility. Your work product becomes dependent on the insight and guts of the person giving you an assignment. This is especially dangerous for consultants and freelancers, because the answer might be, "nothing." Or it might be a paying gig that's profitable in the short run but a career deadener over time.

Far better to reach a level of confidence and skill that you can describe solutions rather than ask for tasks.

The tacky techie conundrum

Techtacky

[click picture to enlarge]

Our Culture (high and popular) is usually created by people who are happy with the systems the world has given them. Magazine editors don't spend a lot of time wishing for better technology. Opera singers focus more on their singing than on microphone technologies. Novelists proudly use typewriters.

Sure, there are exceptions like Les Paul (who developed the electric guitar) and Mitch Miller (who invented reverb) but these exceptions prove the rule: often, culture is invented by people who are too busy to seek out new technology.

(The bottom left corner of the grid shows the tech-phobic culture-phobic contingent. Not relevant to this discussion so much, but scary nonetheless).

If you take a look at this chart, you can see the danger anyone who introduces new technology faces. While you'll attract Les Paul and the 37Signals guys, you're more likely to attract spammers, scammers, opportunity seekers and others that will bring our culture down as easily as they'll bring it up.

The challenge is in designing structures and transparency that will attract the good guys while burying or repelling those that seek the new technology (because they can't find anywhere else to go). In other words, you either need to move the top left to the top right (not easy, but possible*), or educate the bottom left of the grid in how to contribute to the culture (really difficult indeed). The best new media (like blogs and possibly twitter) open doors to people who didn't used to have a voice. The worst ones (like blogs and possibly twitter) merely create new venues for scams and senseless yelling.

*The much-anticipated folding of Gourmet magazine is proof of what happens when the top left refuses to move right. Most of the Conde Nast empire is facing the abyss of this problem right now.

Promiscuous dispersal of your email address

I just went through the hassle of trying to get some B2B firms the details needed to give me an informed quote on a project.

I visited eight sites. Six of them hide their email address. They use forms of one sort of another. One firm refused to accept more than 500 characters in the "how can we help you" box, while three of them wanted to know what state I was in, etc.

Email contact is like a first date. If you show up with a clipboard and a questionnaire, it's not going to go well, I'm afraid. The object is to earn permission to respond.

If you sell something, set up an address like "sales@xyz.com". Put this on your home page, "contact us if you're looking for more information or a price quote." Sure, you'll get a lot of spam, but deleting spam is a lot easier than finding customers. (Hint, ask your IT people to make it a mailto link, with a subject line built in. That way, you can use the subject line to find the good email).

Crowded at the top

In the 260 weeks from 1966 to 1970, there were only thirteen musical acts responsible for every  #1 album on the Billboard charts.

In the 260 weeks that accounted for the first half of the 1970s, it was 26. (hat tip to John Marks for the stat).

Sometimes, we define a golden age in a market as a time of stability, when one or a few giants capture all of our attention. AT&T telephones, Superman comics, Beatles records, IBM computers, The New York Times... and now Google. Choices are easy, the market grows without a lot of effort and we marvel over the ease of success. Ironically, the success of these winners attracts quixotic entrepreneurs, people who set out to challenge the few who are winning. While we might root for these underdogs, it turns out that they're not the ones who usually change everything. The powerful are still too powerful.

The real growth and development and the foundations for the next era are laid during the chaotic times, the times that come after the leaders have stumbled. Harry Chapin didn't trip up the Beatles, but the breakup of the Beatles allowed Harry Chapin his chance. The next golden age of journalism, of communications, of fashion, of car design--those are being established now, in a moment when it's not so crowded at the top.

The very best time to launch a new product or service is when the market appears exhausted or depleted. There's more room at the top and fewer people in a hurry to get there.

Less than zero

The long tail is real, but sometimes the longest parts reach underwater. When there's enough choices, it means that some things will never get picked.

Charles Blow reports in the NY Times that:

"A study last year conducted by members of PRS for Music, a nonprofit royalty collection agency, found that of the 13 million songs for sale online last year, 10 million never got a single buyer and 80 percent of all revenue came from about 52,000 songs. That’s less than one percent of the songs."

The internet has allowed ease of entry into the market. You can advertise anything, any service, any good, any piece of junk in your garage--essentially for zero. You can go into business effortlessly, telling yourself you'll just hang out on the long tail and do just fine. Understand that zero is a very real probability, perhaps even a likelihood. Derek reminds us that 0% of a really big number is still zero.

What direct marketers have always understood is that you must make something work in the small before you bet the farm and market it to the masses. If you can't sell to 1 in 1000, why market to a million?

Sinusitus relief

30,000,000 people suffer from sinusitis, making it the most popular (!) disease in the US. I've had it off and on for years.

After much research, I'd like to share three tips:

This book is the single best one on the topic. It's smart and practical.

You might buy a nasal irrigator and use it twice a day. It's super weird, and it costs $100, and it works. Really.

And you could (I know, it's horrible) drink two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar every day.

This post is totally off topic, but if I can help a few of you make it through a long winter, it was worth it.

(Actually, to bring it back on topic, the question is: why didn't you know about this stuff already? The answer is that people don't like to talk about it. They don't like recommending a book about health because what if you don't like it or it backfires? And they certainly don't like talking about nasal irrigation. Who would? At a dinner party? At a golf game? When, exactly, does it come up in conversation? It turns out that word of mouth is a complex beast. Certain ideas spread merely because they're fun to talk about. Others, even if they're good ideas, languish. Not a lot you can do about this, unless you can hook your product or service to an idea that's naturally viral, as opposed to insisting that the market do the right thing.)

Building books that sell in the digital age

Jeff sent over this video, which I didn't know was online. It's almost two years old, and more informal (and a lot more self-focused) than my usual talks.

In my presentations, I don't often go into detail about the tactics I've used on books I've marketed, so if that's something you're interested in, here you go. I hope the lessons from the book business work for you, whatever you sell.

[It's possible that you won't see the visuals at the link above. If that one doesn't work change the format source on the right just below the box that holds the video.]

Sell like you buy

Here are the two most common pleas I hear from marketers,

"Our product is as remarkable as we can make it, and we're trying really hard and it's very important to us that people buy it, but despite our hard work, it's not selling!" (Hint: calling it a purple cow doesn't make it one).

and

"Our business is built around the status quo, and it's not fair that the market wants something else now."

In both cases, the marketing pitch is focused around the seller, not the buyer. You wouldn't (and don't) buy from someone who says you ought to choose them even though there's a cooler, more remarkable, cheaper, better product. You don't seek out or talk about status quo brands merely because the marketer is trying really hard.

If it's not good enough for you as a consumer, why should it be good enough for you as a marketer?

"Hop in, I'll drive."

Just because someone offers you a lift, doesn't mean you have to take it.

In a joint venture or possible business arrangement, it's reassuring when the other person offers to drive. "Leave it to me," they might say, or, "I'm socializing this through the organization... be patient, I've done this before and we need to do it this way."

Often, this is true. It's the honest appraisal of a generous insider, someone who wants both of you to succeed.

But, just as you should never get in a car with a drunk driver, understand that the minute you let the other person drive, you've bought into their process. Spending three months or three years following someone off a cliff is nuts.

I'd rather disappoint you today and refuse your offer of a lift than end up with both of us having wasted hours and hours of time somewhere further down the road. No, you can't pitch this to your husband, that's my job. No, I won't stand by and watch you mangle this before the board. No, we're not going to interact with customers your way merely because it's the only way you know.

Thanks, but I'll drive this time.

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