it's worth trying to outlove them.
Everyone is working hard on the thinking part, but few of your competitors worry about the art and generosity and caring part.
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.
it's worth trying to outlove them.
Everyone is working hard on the thinking part, but few of your competitors worry about the art and generosity and caring part.
It would be great to be picked, to win the random lottery, to have a dream come true.
But when we rely on a wish to get where we want to go, we often sacrifice the effort that might make it more likely that we get what we actually need. Waiting for the prince to show up is a waste of valuable time, and the waiting distracts us from and devalues the hard work we might be doing instead.
If you can influence the outcome, do the work.
If you can't influence the outcome, ignore the possibility. It's merely a distraction.
Sometimes, your organization will be tempted (or forced) to offer some of your customers less than they’ve received in the past. Perhaps you need to close a local store so you can afford to open a better one a few miles away. Or reroute a bus line to serve more customers, while inconveniencing a few. Or maybe you want to replace a perfectly good free mapping application with a new, defective one so you can score points against your hometown rival in your bid for mobile domination.
A few things to keep in mind:
1. When possible, don’t downgrade. People are way more focused on what you take away than what you give them. Many times, particularly with software, it’s pretty easy to support old (apparently useless) features that a few rabid (equals profitable, loyal and loud) customers really depend on.
2. When it’s not possible to avoid a downgrade, provide a bridge or alternatives, and mark them clearly and discount them heavily. In the case of Apple maps on the new iphone, it would have been really easy to include links or even pre-installed apps for other mapping software. It’s sort of silly to make the Lightning adapter a profit center. When you cancel the all you can eat buffet, be generous with the gift cards given to your best customers.
3. If you can’t build a bridge, own up. Make it clear, and apologize. Not after an outcry, but before it even happens. The genius Francois at the Grand Central Apple store insisted that my hassles with the Music Match feature in iTunes were merely my "opinion," and all the steps I had to go through to move the audio books I’m reviewing from one device to another were in fact good things. It's silly to expect your customers to care about your corporate priorities or to enjoy your corporate-speak. If you've taken something away from them, point it out, admit it and try to earn a chance to delight them again tomorrow.
Apologizing to your best users is significantly more productive than blaming them for liking what you used to do.
Despite your instincts, almost all big change, almost all important organizations, almost all the stuff that matters doesn't get launched big, from the loud place, on the front page of the paper or on the Super Bowl or on a popular blog.
No, the stuff that changes everything starts on the fringe, captures the imagination of a dozen, who bring along colleagues or friends, and then it's a hundred and then...
Make whatever list you want: Twitter, Kiva, 500px, Pure Food and Wine, Jiro... They all became hits without being anointed by the loud folks first.
Instead of cajoling your way into the spotlight, consider investing in the experience first.
Time to pay attention to the Weber-Fechner Law.
It's easier to tell the difference between two bags of flour that are three ounces apart in weight when one weighs a pound, than it is to tell the difference between two bags that are three ounces apart when one weighs twenty pounds.
It's easier to tell the difference between two flashlights that are 6 lumens apart when one is just 2 lumens bright than it is to tell them apart when one is 200 lumens.
The more stimulus you're getting (light, sound, pressure, delight, sadness) the less easily you can notice a small change. That seems obvious, but it's worth saying.
If you're entering a market filled with loudness, it's harder to be noticed, even if the incremental benefit you offer seems large to you. If you're trying to delight existing customers, the more delighted they already are, the more new delight you need to offer to turn heads.
One more reason to seek out those that are both interested and underserved.
Yesterday, Squidoo reached one of its goals: We're now ranked #50 among all US sites in traffic. Ahead of the New York Times and Apple.
The thing is, our tiny team grew this way with intent. Stepwise progress is a choice, and it means you invest, measure and focus your energy differently. It can be frustrating, because shortcuts get ever more tempting along the way.
With 50,000,000 unique visitors a month, our platform seems to be hitting its stride. A typical overnight success that took seven years to build. Thanks to the squids and to everyone who helped us get this far.
PS check out my friend Bernadette's new book... another example of generous, stepwise audience building
"Why isn't this as important to you as it is to me?"
"you'd see it was obvious."
This is the foundation of the rational pitch, of the fact-based marketing campaign.
1. Can you teach us what you know?
2. Once we know what you know, will we actually think it's obvious, or is this also a matter of belief or worldview?
It's a very different thing to say, "If you believe what I believe, then this path would be obvious..." because getting someone to share your beliefs is far more difficult than getting them to know what you know.
Obvious is a good place to be if you can get there.
There's no doubt that it's easier to start an organization (or a project) around specific.
The more specific the better. When you have a handful of ideal potential clients and a solution that is customized and perfect for them, it's far easier to get started than when you offer everything to everyone.
Not only that, but the specific makes it easier to be remarkable, to overdeliver and to create conversations, because you know precisely what will delight the user.
Once you master your specific, you can do the work to become general, because you have cash flow and reputation and experience.
The flipside of this is interesting: if you have somehow, against all odds, managed to succeed in the general, the move to specific is almost effortless. If you can change your reflex action that consistently pushes you to mass, the market you've chosen will embrace the fact that you, the general one, are now truly focused on them, the specifics.
There's a huge chasm in most markets: People who want to be isolated from the consequences of their actions, and those that are focused (sometimes too much) on those consequences.
For years, Paula Dean sold cooking shows to an audience that refused to care about what would happen if they regularly ate what she cooked.
Rep. Anthony Weiner wasn't open to buying warnings about what would happen to his photos and tweets.
At the same time, there's the audience of new moms that are overeager to baby-proof their home (just in case), the conscientious recycler who doesn't want to know about the actual costs of picking up that bin out front, and the passionate teacher who sacrifices every day so his students can thrive a decade from now.
If you are selling tomorrow, be very careful not to pitch people who are only interested in buying things that are about today. It's virtually impossible to sell financial planning or safety or the long-term impacts of the environment to a consumer or a voter who is relentlessly focused on what might be fun right now.
Before a marketer or organization can sell something that works in the future, she must sell the market on the very notion that the future matters. The cultural schism is deep, and it's not clear that simple marketing techniques are going to do much to change it.
If you take a group of people, a subgroup of the larger population, and expose them to focused messages again and again, you will start to change their point of view. If you augment those messages with exposure to other members of the group, the messages will begin to have ever more impact.
If the group becomes aligned, and it starts acting like a tribe, those messages will become self-reinforcing. And finally, if you anoint and reward leaders of this tribe, single them out for positive attention because of the way your message resonated with them, it will become fully baked in.
That's a lot of power. Probably too much for the selfish marketer, lobbyist or demagogue to have at his disposal.
Avoid it at your peril. The cat's not even sick. (HT to C. J. Cherryh)
If you don't know how it works, find out.
If you're not sure if it will work, try it. If it doesn't make sense, play with it until it does.
If it's not broken, break it.
If it might not be true, find out.
And most of all, if someone says it is none of your business, prove them wrong.
...is a clock that's wrong. Randomly fast or slow.
If we know exactly how much it's wrong, then it's not so bad.
If there's no clock, we go seeking the right time. But a wrong clock? We're going to be tempted to accept what it tells us.
What are you measuring? Keeping track of the wrong data, or reading it wrong is worse than not keeping track at all.
If you don't have time to do it right, how will you find time to do it over?
(In Swahili: Haraka Haraka haina Baraka….)
PS stalling is even worse than hurrying.
There are at least 200 working days a year. If you commit to doing a simple marketing item just once each day, at the end of the year you've built a mountain. Here are some things you might try (don't do them all, just one of these once a day would change things for you):
Enough molehills is all you need to have a mountain.
This is one of the nicest things you can say to someone who just got good news.
"Congratulations" is fine for winning the lottery, but "well deserved" is reserved for people who put in the effort and the time and took the risk to get somewhere.
The interesting thing is that we get to choose what sort of prizes we're in line for. It seems to me that vying for the ones that come with "well deserved" makes more sense than merely spinning the wheel over and over.
Maybe I'm not listening to your pitch because the 100 people who came before you abused my trust, stole my time and disrespected my attention.
Perhaps I'm not buying from you because the last time someone like you earned my trust, he broke my heart.
People are never irrational. They often act on memories and pressures that you're unaware of, though.
When I meet you or your company or your product or your restaurant or your website, I desperately need to put it into an existing category, because the mental cost of inventing a new category for every new thing I see is too high.
I am not alone in this need. In fact, that's the way humans survive the onslaught of newness we experience daily.
Of course, you can refuse to be categorized. You can insist that it's unfair that people judge you like this, that the categories available to you are too constricting and that your organization and your offering are too unique to be categorized.
If you make this choice, the odds are you will be categorized anyway. But since you didn't participate, you will be miscategorized, which is far worse than being categorized.
What is this thing? What are you like? Are you friend or foe, flake or leader, good deal or ripoff, easy or hard, important or not? Are you destined for the trusted category or the other one?
Make it easy to categorize you and you're likely to end up in the category you are hoping for.
You get what you focus on. Focus on nothing, and you won't get much.
The successful organization can be focused on any of these constituencies (a partial list):
Many companies are sales-force driven. When the salesforce is happy, the CEO is happy.
Others organizations are driven by the daily (or hourly) stock price. The company is run to please Wall Street.
You can choose to focus your best work on attracting new customers. This evangelical growth model is going to change your pricing and your product development efforts too.
Contrast this with the organization that puts a priority on delighting existing customers. This will refocus a non-profit on doing work that gets existing donors to up their commitment, for example. It changes the way you talk (more depth) and what you make.
Pleasing employees, of course, might help with any of these constituencies, but also changes how you make difficult decisions.
And finally, if the lawyers have enough sway, you might make your hardest decisions around what you think a regulator will say.
There are also ego choices, like focusing on the media or your neighbors or the competition. And political choices, like focusing on what makes one department head happy... but those are much harder to turn into successful enterprises.
Every organization chooses its own audience, and that choice is based on the architecture of the industry, the mindset of the boss and the history of how you got here. But don't doubt that it changes everything you do.
First up, a free, small-group seminar in my office near New York City for leaders of non-profit organizations. Check out the details and apply via this form. The deadline for applications is next Friday, so don't delay.
I'll be hosting about fifteen leaders on October 15, and I apologize to those that I can't accomodate. Here's a recent review of the day-long office experience as well as a shorter review of a previous event, and a video from 2009.
Second, for entrepreneurs, freelancers and people working for organizations seeking to make a ruckus, a weekend seminar at the fabulous Helen Mills Theater in New York on Saturday and Sunday, October 20 and 21.
The Helen Mills is an intimate space with less than 125 seats, so there will be a lot of connection going on. Expect to be interacting with CEOs, up and comers and independent writers, impresarios and agents of change.
Sunday adds a new format, and I'm hoping you'll come for both days and see how far it can take you.
A weekend devoted to small businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers and anyone in a larger organization that wants to take responsibility and make something happen. The internet has opened doors, made connections and created leverage. The post-industrial age is here, and it brings with it the opportunity to carve a completely different path--for you, for your team and for your organization.
People who have attended previous events have left with new strategies, new tactics, and most important, new resolve on how to get through their Dip. Knowing that there are other people in the same place, and being able to establish lines of support can really change the way you do your work.
The format: I'll set the stage with an hour-long talk about the role of impresarios, the connection economy and the chance to create work that matters. From that, we'll shift to a wide open Q&A session in which attendees share their stuckness, talk about their strategies and mostly ask about how this new way of thinking (and doing) can help them. I've discovered that by spending more than six straight hours leading the discussion and answering questions, I can start to get under your skin and help you see how this revolution is open to you.
For the entire day, you'll be surrounded by fellow travelers, by people in just as much of a hurry as you are. I'll provide lunch and snacks (and lots and lots of coffee) and we'll go at it until about 3:45. It's a long day, but worth the effort.
That afternoon, you'll have the chance to connect with other attendees and (if you're staying for Sunday) dive into your homework. Dinner that night (optional, dutch treat) will be divided across ten restaurants throughout the city, with groups picked to maximize cross-pollination. If you don't meet someone who significantly changes your outlook and your future projects, you probably were hiding...
The next morning, the Sunday attendees will reconvene bright and early at 9. For Sunday's session, we're moving out of the theatre and into the group space upstairs. We'll spend the day alternating between group work, assignments, presentations and feedback from me.
Both days include lunch, snacks, Q&A, surprises but, sadly, no dancing monkeys.
This is my last public event until my book launches, and I hope you'll be able to join a very motivated, very talented group of people for a weekend that will both frighten and empower you to go do the work you're capable of.
Get tickets here. There are a few early bird discount seats for blog readers.
PS To be clear, Saturday is a classic Seth Godin Q&A session, designed to help you think through the challenges you're facing and to see the common elements that so many successful projects share. Sunday is that plus group work, presentations, thought exercises, the Shipit workbook and more. It builds on Saturday and is a smaller group, with more airtime for all.
If you have questions, drop a line to email@example.com
...then access to tools is no longer sufficient. Everyone you compete with has access to a camera, a keyboard, a guitar. Just because you know how to use a piece of software or a device doesn't mean that there isn't an amateur who's willing to do it for free, or an up and comer who's willing to do it for less.
...then saying "how dare you" is no longer a useful way to cajole the bride away from asking her friend to take pictures at the wedding, or the local non-profit to have a supporter typeset the gala's flyer or to keep a rock star from inviting volunteers on stage.
...then you ought to find and lead a tribe, build a base of people who want you, and only you, and are willing to pay for it.
...then you need to develop both skills and a reputation for those skills that make it clear to (enough) people that an amateur solution isn't nearly good enough, because you're that much better and worth that much more.
...then you should pick yourself and book yourself and publish yourself and stand up and do your work, and do it in a way for which there are no substitutes.
It's true, if someone wants professional work, then he will need to hire professionals. But it's also true that as amateurs are happy to do the work that professionals used to charge for, the best (and only) path to getting paid is to redefine the very nature of professional work.
Scarcity is a great thing for those that possess something that's scarce. But when scarcity goes away, you'll need more than that.
For fifty years, it was a national disgrace.
Motor cars in the UK often left behind road kill. Hedgehogs would meander across the road and splat.
Today, you hardly see that anymore. One reason is that there are fewer hedgehogs due to suburbanization. The real reason, though, is that slow hedgehogs became former hedgehogs, which meant that they were unable to produce more slow hedgehog kids. The new hedgehogs are fast.
Draw your own organizational analogy.
[Update: plenty of people have helped me see that there's a lack of data about the hedgehog hypothesis. It might be true, but we can't prove it. So consider it apocryphal...]
Are we on the same team? and
What's the right path forward?
Most of time, all we talk about is the path, without having the far more important but much more difficult conversation about agendas, goals and tone.
Is this a matter of respect? Power? Do you come out ahead if I fail? Has someone undercut you? Do we both want the same thing to happen here?
The reason politics in my country is diverging so much from useful governance has nothing to do with useful conversations and insight into what the right path is. It's because defeat and power and humiliation and money have replaced "doing what works for all of us" as the driving force in politics.
If you feel disrespected, the person you disagree with is not going to be a useful partner in figuring out what the right path going forward might be. If one party (employee/customer/investor) only wins when the other party loses, what's the point of talking about anything but that?
Deal with the agenda items and the dignity problems first before you try to work out the right strategic choices.
Not too many millenia ago, just about everything we remembered happened to us. In real life.
Books and then radio and TV changed that. Orson Welles demonstrated that a radio drama could create feelings (and then memories of those feelings) that were as powerful to some as the real thing.
Eleven years ago, we all experienced an event of such enormity that it still haunts us. Some escaped, some saw it out their office window while others watched on TV.
Just a decade later, we're far more likely to both celebrate and generate our memories in 140 character bursts, or in short updates or in a 'breaking news' email. The short version amplifies our other memories. Neil Armstrong's death shook us not because we knew him, but because we remember watching him on TV... The blip of information alone was sufficient to give us pause.
A few generations ago, the only music most people heard was music we heard in person. Today, the most famous (and in some ways, important) people in our lives are people we will never meet.
As we continually replace real life with ever shorter digital updates, what happens to the memories we build for ourselves and the people we serve? More and more, we don't remember what actually happened to us, but what we've encountered digitally. It scales, but does it matter in the same way?
Please don't include the phrase, "I'll keep this brief," in your remarks.
Please don't quote Robert Browning or Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at us. If less is more, just give us less, not an explanation.
Say what you need to say, then leave. Less is actually more, and the length of your speech or your document has nothing at all to do with your impact or your status.
They use stopwatches at McDonald's. They know, to the second, how long it should take to make a batch of fries. And they use spreadsheets, too, to whittle the price of each fry down by a hundredth of a cent if they can. They're big and it matters.
Small businesspeople often act like direct marketers. They pick a number and they obsess over it. In direct mail, of course, it's the open rate or the conversion rate. For a freelancer or small business person, it might be your bank balance or the growth in weekly sales.
I think for most businesses that want to grow, it's way too soon to act like a direct marketer and pick a single number to obsess about.
The reason is that these numbers demand that you start tweaking. You can tweak a website or tweak an accounts payable policy and make numbers go up, which is great, but it's not going to fundamentally change your business.
I'd have you obsess about things that are a lot more difficult to measure. Things like the level of joy or relief or gratitude your best customers feel. How much risk your team is willing to take with new product launches. How many people recommended you to a friend today...
What are you tracking? If you track concepts, your concepts are going to get better. If you track open rates or clickthrough, then your subject lines are going to get better. Up to you.
One reason to do something is because you get paid to do it.
But it's sad to think that this might be the only reason to do something.
Now that you've got a skillset and trust and leverage and a following and the tools to make something happen, are you going to invest your heart and soul into something that's important or waste it selling something you're not proud of?
When you hand someone a photo album or a yearbook, the first thing they will do is seek out their own picture.
Knowing that, the question is: how often are you featuring the photo, name, needs or wants of your customers where everyone (or least the person you're catering to) can see them?
Models are fairly generic placeholders, attractive men and women who anonymously walk down the runway at a fashion show or stand up for a photo shoot. It's surprisingly unglamorous and isn't particularly steady or financially rewarding.
Supermodels, on the other hand, are a relatively recent innovation, and they are in a totally different (financial) category. The interesting thing is that everyone benefits: the model makes a lot more money, the advertiser gains more credibility from using the known face and the audience gets the frisson of recognition that comes from celebrity. Supermodels aren't necessarily prettier, they're merely more famous, a niche that serves all the parties.
There's a leap between model and supermodel. There isn't really a stable niche for reallygoodmodel and extremelygoodmodel. You are either seen as worth the super premium or you're not. This quantum leap from one state to the other makes it an unpredictable career, one fraught with risk, because you never know when you're going to pop.
You've probably guessed that supermodel status exists in many fields. Stocks, brand names, consultants, doctors, even dog trainers.
The leap must be an intentional one. You don't walk there. You leap.
Cities work because they create collisions between and among diverse individuals. Ideas go to cities to be born and to be spread, and the chaos that bubbles just under the surface feeds those ideas. The web, at its most effective, is a digital city, a place where access is equal and ideas race and connect and morph.
If you want to find creative work, go to a city. If you want to find inspiration, expose yourself to diversity, not a bubble. The city is chaotic, without much of a filter.
The soapbox, on the other hand, is the amplified voice of a single speaker. The soapbox is the newspaper with subscribers, the Twitter account with followers, the blog with readers. A soapbox cannot ever scale to be like the city, because given the chance, the mob, attracted by the attention that comes with the soapbox, will grab the microphone and create nothing but noise. Open mic night is an interesting concept, but it never sells out Madison Square Garden.
Everyone deserves their own soapbox. The web has handed everyone a microphone and said, "here, speak up." But everyone doesn't deserve their own audience. That's something that's earned. Once you're on your soapbox, by all means take inspiration from the city. Learn from the diverse voices you hear. But your soapbox is yours, and the people who listen to you came to hear you, not everyone.
Access isn't really the issue when it comes to soapboxes. The issue is whether cultural and social forces will further push those with something to say (which is every resident of the city, which is all of us) to patiently and clearly say it, to build the audience that they are able to.
Your soapbox might be the reputation you have in the comments section of a favorite blog, or your page on a social networking site. It might be those that listen to you in the conference room of your organization. But it's yours.
For the first time in the history of media, those that are able to consume the media are also able to create it. That's a powerful (and thus frightening) choice.
One day soon, it's possible that corporate interests will impose barriers on soapbox access, all in an effort to reclaim power for themselves. Until then, the race is on to build your tribe, to tirelessly connect and to earn an audience that wants to hear from you.
...is to do marketing.
Do it on the weekends. Volunteer and do it for a non-profit. Fundraise. Run a business online. Market a kid's lemonade stand.
When you put your ideas in the world, then, and only then, do you know if they're real.
Not expensive, merely frightening.
The rules of right of way make sense.
A maneuverable motor boat yields to a sailboat because it can more easily recover from the turn.
A bicyclist going downhill yields to one struggling uphill, because he can get back up to speed more quickly.
The senior partner invests a little bit of time helping the junior one, because no one else has the skills to do so, not because reciprocation is the goal.
Asymmetrical trades are what makes a society work.
Yield has two meanings, and one leads to the other.
For most of us, it's not the big traps that mess us up, it's the little ones.
Every time I break stride and distract myself by checking my email (a hundred times in a bad day), I get a small reward. I get the satisfaction of starting and finishing a project, on time and for free.
For a lot of people, every time they drink a Coke instead of a glass of water, they get a small punishment in exchange for their treat. One Coke never hurt anyone, but a hundred of them make you fat.
One way to change behavior is to keep track of how often these little events occur, because seeing them lined up on the windowsill might be enough to change your mind. The other way is to make those events louder. I'm pretty sure that if I got an electric shock every time I stopped to check my email, I'd only do it daily...
One thing you'll notice about the naturally athletic is that they all seem to be born with a certain grace, the ability to walk with lithe steps and catch a foul ball in the stands.
One thing you'll notice about leaders is that they're not naturally born. They don't have much in common on the surface, other than the fact that they are leaders.
This is bad news is you've got the wrong genes but want to throw the shotput, but great news if you'd like to be a leader. It's a choice, not the way you were born.