Who to connect with.

The people who want to connect with you are referred to as “your audience.” It’s important to have an idea of who your audience is. What do they believe in? What problems do they have? Why do they want to hear from me? 

But there’s also a quick way to whittle down to your audience. Start with “Who isn’t this for?”

“Who isn’t this for?” is anywhere from four to ninety-nine times more important, than who it is for. When I was connecting, I didn’t connect with accountants, interior designers, architects, or almost any other profession. I focused on engineers, engineering managers, Directors of Engineering. These people all have common problems, which makes it easier to help all of my audience at once. 

Where are those numbers coming from?

Samsung, the smartphone market leader, owns roughly 20% of the market. That means there are four times the number of smartphone owners who don’t have Samsung smartphones than those that do.

Also consider, a hugely popular blog or video getting 60,000,000-70,000,000 viewers. An overwhelming success! It also reached less than 1% of people worldwide. There are more than 99 times as many people who didn’t see it as did.

If you can bump everyone away who isn’t for what you do, then you can spend less time dealing with people who weren’t going to engage you, and care more about those who will. You can increase generosity to those interested. Recently, I started reaching out to some email subscribers asking them if they would introduce themselves to me more personally. I can invest in them, since I know they are already interested in what I have to say.  

Here’s an opportunity. If you’re “selling” something today, then carefully consider what it doesn’t do. Who it isn’t going to help. And write it out as clearly as possible.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Is there economic restrictions? If you sell a million dollar product, it isn’t for a guy that has a half million dollars in revenue.
  • Is personality of the user a factor?
  • Does the aesthetic not fit in some places?
  • Do they need a certain education background?
  • Do they need to be in a certain stage of life?

That’s not an exclusive list certainly, but it’s a starting point. Be generous, don’t waste people’s time. As a nice side effect, you’ll waste less of yours.

Types of Network Effects

  • Shared Data. When someone design a product in a 3D CAD tool, the person manufacturing it can use that model to create their tooling. It makes having the same CAD software beneficial.
  • Communication Devices. Work better when your friends are on them.
  • Physical Places. Coffee Shops. Restaurants. Eventually you bring other people to the ones you like.
  • Being Remarkable. People like to share things that are hard to believe. Something new.
  • Discounts for groups.
  • Credits for referrals.
  • A good story. Everyone loves to share a good story.

Career progression…

is diminishing.

Most companies don’t understand it fully yet. It’s caused by the impact technology has on business.

At one point in time, say 1,000 years ago, outside of nobility, most people learned everything they knew from their family. There wasn’t much that someone could teach their parents.

As the concept of careers developed due to industrialization, people start having paths available throughout their career to learn how a company functioned and move up. It took years to understand how everything in the company worked, and spending time at each level allowed a deep understanding of the position and operation of the company before moving further up and making more important decisions.

Today, technology is progressing so rapidly, nearly every position in a company is significantly different if looking through a 5 year window. Spending time in each position, won’t give you an insight into the position because it will look so different by the time you’re in decision making position.

Think about marketing in 2009, 10 years ago. The web had been mainstream for a bit. Google was already the most common search engine. Companies had understood the need for websites, and the big ones were developing e-commerce options to sell direct. However, the concept of Facebook marketing, didn’t really exist, or at least nowhere near the level it does today. Snapchat, Instagram, and LinkedIn, weren’t viable platforms for marketing yet, and some of those hadn’t even launched. Podcasting was non-existent by comparison today.

Previous generations didn’t learn business in this marketing space. It’s brand new. A young generation is coming up that knows how to use these tools. And these tools if used correctly can build an entire company if finding the right niche, strategy, or tactic. We’re now in a situation where a younger generation can teach an older generation something of significant impact.

With that in mind, and knowing the trend is only going to continue, how can career progression still be a concept? At least, in the scope of “paying your dues” or “putting in your time”.

Instead, figuring out how to make an impact. Testing your theories, using the tools you know and sharing with the right decision makers is the way to move forward. Don’t wait for someone to see your value and let you do something. Instead, do something, and make people see the value in it. Then, and only then will you progress in your career.

P.S. Keep in mind, it’s a two-way street, if you can now leap over the generation previous to you, then the generation behind you can also leap over you. Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop experimenting.

How to beat Amazon

Amazon is looking at purchase and interest data of users, and psychographics trying to figure out who can benefit from the same or similar purchases. As they grow to dominate the market more and more, they will have more data to extract more sales information leading to more and more efficient sales.

How can someone compete with that?

Show people something they haven’t seen. Be a curator of the uncommon. If the goods are something that is everyday, Amazon is going to find the right people, faster. Deliver the goods cheaper. And beat the pants off any upstart. Now it’s possible to appeal emotionally by being the small guy, but that will only get you so far.

Uncommon goods. A curator of the unexpected and delightful. A convincer. Those are the things you have to be to beat Amazon.

The myth of good marketing

Steve Jobs was lauded for his creativity in working with great people to do great marketing.

Steve Jobs best marketing was his products. In the past, good marketing was finding the right way to get in front of the right people since there was less channels.

His 1984 based commercial, was great marketing not because of it’s complexity of shooting, but because the people it appeal to, the sci-fi types, are the types most likely to invest early in technology. After there, the product remarkability spread the word around. It appealed to the early adopters, then spread to everyone else.

The trick wasn’t the ad, it was the group chosen and the product. Focus on that.

Science versus art is about risk

Once upon a time, deciding the structure of building, the architecture of it, was an art. People tried new things, but at the same time, it was risky to go to far away from the past. No one knew what could work, only what had.

Eventually, the science behind structural engineering was developed, and it became less risky to do something different. It was possible calculate the likelihood of failure for different events like earthquakes, winds, snow, etc. Factors of safety could be used.

Science is about taking something risky, something that might not work, or may work differently than expected and minimizing that.

If doing something, and you have no clue what the results will be, you’re practicing art. If you are doing something measured, calculated, and have confidence of what the results will be you’re practicing science.

With enough practice, art becomes science. When it came to making cookies, bakers experimented with fats, cook times and temps, sugar amount, flour amount, egg amount, effects of baking soda, effects of baking powder, salt amounts. Eventually, making cookies became more science than art. Someone well-versed in cookies, can make a new recipe, and know pretty closely what the results will be.

Society doesn’t necessarily need a lot of painters, sculptors, and potters, but it could benefit from an overwhelming amount of artists, people who are willing to take a risk that something may not work.

“You’ll never work in this town again.”

Except the towns used to be smaller.

The towns used to be ran by well-connected individuals who knew the few key players.

Linkedin and other technologies didn’t exist to find the right people.

The line was used as leverage. A way to make people do things they didn’t want to do to. The world has lowered the leverage.

There’s another job just around the corner. Act accordingly.

Don’t sell if it’s not done…

Or you’re not sure you can deliver.

It’s tempting, get some sales while doing the work, after all we all want to be sure it’s going to work before putting in the time…

but at the same time, it’s inefficient.

You may not know how to position the product because it’s still flexible, you’ll make promises to each person that it’s just what they need, and each of those promises is different than what the end product becomes, so you can’t live up to them.

You’ll also be taking that inefficient approach and using it to distract you from the core of what you’re trying to do. Build something.

Don’t be scared it’s not going to work out. Most things in life don’t. It’s unavoidable. You’ll find out when it’s ready, and you’re ready to start selling. Two things are guaranteed though, you’ll come out smarter, and you’ll have something interesting to talk about in the future. Those are wins. Focus on them.

P.S. Selling a minimum viable product is different than what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about trying to sell prior to that stage, it’s a waste. It needs a base level of functionality, something to show.

A brand is pushing past the lull.

Paul Rudd goes on Conan O’Brien and claims to be showing a clip of his upcoming movies, but ends up playing the same clip every time.

https://www.ladbible.com/entertainment/film-and-tv-paul-rudds-been-playing-the-same-prank-on-conan-obrien-for-16-years-20181209

If you watch the video where every occurrence of this is clipped together, you’ll find a strange thing happens. The first time you find it funny, probably the second too. Somewhere after that in the next few plays, you find yourself thinking, “This is so stupid.” Then after a few more, the continued effort makes it funny. That transition from this is stupid, to liking it again. That’s a brand happening. It’s pushing past the lull.

Everything new is interesting. Then it’s boring. Then if you stick with it long enough it’s a brand.

The Actor’s Works…

spreads because the people he works for want the movie to be popular. By doing a good job in the film, he’s getting exposure to his skills. His job is his marketing.

Not everyone’s work is like this. A janitor who does a good job doesn’t usually have his employer spreading the good word about him. A programmer doing a good job doesn’t necessarily either, unless it’s to explain why no other competitor can do what they do.

That’s why to achieve this scenario, there are two criteria you need:

  1. A unique, point of view, style or skillset.
  2. A benefit to someone who spreads your uniqueness.

If you’re good at what you do, and want to be highly sought after, like an A-list movie star is, you’ll have to meet both of these conditions.

What if you limited the marketing content you have?

Where I work we have:

  • A blog, that has half a dozen contributors.
  • An email list
  • A dozen different product documents
  • Videos
  • LinkedIn posts
  • Seminars
  • And the list continues.

There is no way that anyone at our company fully knows the extent of our marketing documents. That’s the problem. How does any piece of content gain traction and spread? How does anyone share what we have when it’s beneficial.

Most companies are probably making too much content, and not sharing enough.

What do you think would happen if you limited yourself and said we can only have 5 marketing documents, make them count?

Sure you could keep old ones, treat them like a bench in sports. Swap them out. But you have your lineup, the ones everyone is told to use, and knows exactly where they are.

My hunch is that people are doing too much marketing. A band writes one album and then tours it for 2-3 years. And they may modify each song a bit as they try out different things live than they did on the album. That’s okay, you can revise and improve the quality too.

Those same pieces can be repurposed in a variety of ways. You could read them on a podcast. You could record a video of them. Turn them into an article.

I suppose the problem I’m not addressing here is search engine optimization (SEO) and I’m not going to get started on that right now…

Style is part of being remarkable.

At some point engineering overpowered style because someone doesn’t have to make hard choices, just optimize for performance.

I’m making this statement based off of older cars. In the ’60s cars all seemed to have much larger stylistic differences than that of today. When I read, or hear about the history of old vehicles, there are a lot of stories of bringing in this designer, or that one. I don’t hear that in the modern age.

I think it’s because style requires tough choices. If we just choose something mathematical to be the goal, then the hard choices are made for us. Not many people like making hard decisions. Especially the ones that could lead to the success or failure of the product.

However, as the world moves forward, the standard spaces are being filled, by highly automated, highly repeatable processes.

Part of the fight of standing out is being remarkable, and a component of remarkability is style. If you can’t make a choice. Something to say this is me, this is how I do it, then there won’t be much for you left.

You can’t get ahead while being behind.

That seems like an obvious statement, yet people try to defy it everyday. They want to make up for not having the ability to commit small, incremental effort towards something larger everyday. As a result, they skip the dishes, they don’t tidy up, they don’t file their papers, or do any of the typical household management.

And yet they don’t get ahead.

Eventually, you need that pot you didn’t wash. You need that paper you can’t find. It’s all disorganized, at even when you don’t need it, it’s all in the way.

The first step to getting ahead is simply don’t get behind. Taking care of the small daily tasks isn’t a hindrance, it’s a necessity. Same with your hygiene, and health.

Amazon Product Algorithm

I could see a point in the future where AI gathers complaints about a product from Amazon reviews, redesigns the products and then sends it to manufacture and listens to what the new reviews say.

This is essentially an optimization problem, with an entirely automated supply chain. AI software scanning words are already under development. Generative design is a growing area of research in CAD and design software, and industry 4.0 is all about connected factories. Throw in self-driving trucks, and there you have it, the whole system integrated into one tight bundle.

Amazon may not own every step in that chain. They may utilize factories that simply tie into the Amazon system that they contract out, but still, it will feel and probably be a monopoly on the most common items.

How will there be room for anyone else?

Simple. Do something different. A computer wants to optimize. It wants to focus on 5 star ratings. Or it wants to maximize sales. Or maximize margins.

Build your product on an entirely different axis. One that isn’t easily measured. Coolness for example. Build it based on who it isn’t for.

There are other factors at play too. How does that system market it? When serving a big audience, there isn’t much to stand out. Sure, you can use a big budget to buy a lot of interruption for people, but that’s all you’re buying. An interruption. There is plenty of room for companies who aren’t interruptions, but instead something you look forward to stumbling across. Be one of those.

SWAG Golf is one of them.

An interesting story

Start with an ending that no one can relate to, then fill in the gaps.

Breaking Bad started with Walter White in a gas mask frantically driving an RV with his partner Jesse also in a gas mask, passing out. At the same time, there were two bodies sliding around on the ground inside the RV.

That’s not a story nearly anyone can relate to. Somehow, the chemistry of our brains tells us that when we can’t relate, perhaps we should listen. There is something to be learned.

While it’s good to use similarities to build common ground and a relationship, it’s good to use differences to craft a compelling story.

Moving up in class or down in class

If constantly creating a system that sorts out the poor, makes them less socially mobile, and less likely to have kids. A society is created that has people from higher classes, moving to lower ones. A a pyramid can’t stand without a base.

If you create a society where people can easily improve themselves, feel optimistic about the future, and want to create something that benefits society and allows them to move up in the world. Then you are in a world where people are moving up in class.

In reality, both are going on all the time. It’s the net trend of positivity that needs to happen.

While this could get political, people can affect this on an individual level. It’s one of the reasons that I work on this blog, my email list, and give talks. I want people to move up in the world and be optimistic.

Opportunity Cost

This is the part most people want to ignore. And they are everywhere.

Going to work today, means you don’t get to spend time with your kids. It also means you don’t get to go to a different higher paying job.

In the quest for security, most people ignore the opportunity cost of what they are doing on the daily. Of course, part of the reason for this is because it’s nauseating to constantly think about and there is no perfect answer.

If you constantly evaluate opportunity cost, you would never watch your favorite movie. Or if a super rich person watched their favorite movie, the opportunity cost of doing so could be in the millions, which would be crazy for someone with no money to do. Which is why it also becomes circumstantial.

I believe the sweet spot for opportunity cost is not asking yourself daily, but while planning a project or any long-term commitment. What is this costing? And is there something else that will produce better returns? If the answer to the second question is no, proceed.

The patent for the fax machine was around in 1843.

It takes a lot longer for technology to propagate than most people can imagine. The fax machine was a huge success, and it had one of the strongest network effects ever. Have you ever tried to send a fax to someone who didn’t have a fax machine?

It doesn’t work well. Better make them buy one.

Today, technology is evolving at a rapid pace, but the bottleneck isn’t the development, it’s adoption.

Having a good strategy on how to make your product catch on is the most critical part of your plan, baking that into the product works wonders.

Self-promotion not allowed.

So how does anyone get ideas to spread? We’ve already destroyed all the gatekeepers with the internet. If you tell people they can’t self-promote, how does society get ideas to grow? Do we rely on the algorithm?

I understand the problem to be solved, it’s a cut off of people from “driving” by and promoting the work that they’ve done on websites and forums. Essentially, overpowering the board with self-promotion.

At the same time, if there are less people who can pick you and choose to spread your work than ever, and we’re all trying to be seen, where do we get to do it? What about the people who have been generous and produced works whose benefits are certainly greater than the irritation of the small self-promotion they try to do.

It’s not a problem with an easy solution, but it’s one to think about.

The Wendy’s board game

Wendy’s made a board game called Feast of Legends. I never would have known about it until a big gamer coworker of mine mentioned it to me in a tangentially related conversation we were having. 

This is an incredible piece of marketing for three reasons:

Network effects.

Feast of Legends is remarkable.

It’s generous. 

  1. Feast of Legends is remarkable. It’s got nice art. On first glance, it’s got a well-developed set of rules. It’s based around food. It’s unique.
  2. Network effects. A game involves multiple players, people have to be invited over to play.
  3. It’s generous. Wendy’s even has a free version you can print out in PDF form. It’s not trying to extract money from you, it’s built on good will.
  4. Being based around food, it probably makes you hungry. Which is how they sell food. I imagine strictly out of thanks, groups of people would form parties by inviting people to play and catering in some Wendy’s.

Overall, it’s an incredibly smart piece of marketing, done for much cheaper than traditional advertising. It’s remarkable, has network effects, is built on generosity, and makes you want their product. What is a better recipe for marketing success?

Most sales funnels lack dimensionality

To be clear, I’m talking about the automated sales funnels mostly, though it still applies to more traditional methods as well. Here’s how most companies qualify a lead:

  1. Do they have a problem that our product solves?
  2. Do they have money to buy it?

Now, consider a software company. Who do you think is more likely to buy software to solve their problem, a guy who asked the receptionist to print out the white paper on it, or the guy who heard about the software on a podcast?

They may both have a problem, and both have money, but one is currently leveraging technology in all aspects of their life and one isn’t. Capturing these sorts of nuances in your sales funnel is important.

Investment required

Cupcakes need little investment. If you want to sell them work for a day, buy your flour, oil, milk, etc. bake them and sell them. That doesn’t require much patience.

If you want to sell furniture you’ll have to have a workspace, tools, and more expensive materials than furniture. It will take time and dedication to save for it.

If you want to sell cars you design. You’ll need wealthy investors. You’ll have to convince them and be persistent against rejection.

Everyone has to find the right version of business for themselves. And you may go through many of them in your life.

A show of hands.

That’s something you can only get in person. It’s valuable to do in-person. It’s a reason to come to a conference rather than watch a video. There are other ways to measure a video, but it’s not usually solely the group you seek to serve.

A taco business.

I once started a taco business. I sold them at farmer’s markets and got a catering gig who reached out again two times for repeat business. I closed it up before investing too much because I didn’t enjoy it much at the time. This is how life is figured out.