I deleted Twitter.

At least the Twitter app on my phone. My posts still automatically update there, but I’m not engaging.

For me, it’s not a place to find an audience for a few reasons:

  • I believe in long-term trust building
  • I believe in generosity and stickiness of a topic, neither of which is well-presented in Twitter’s format.
  • I believe in knowing the audience being presented to, and Twitter is too fluid.

For me, Twitter seemed like a party of people who are all juiced up and high energy but with a lot of conversations that touch but don’t flow together. It’s hard to build a coherent message. Sure, it may be a place to be seen in “public” but like a guy shouting from the sidewalk, no one there is enrolled in what you are saying. If you’ve already built your audience, Twitter may be a fine updates platorm, but aside from that, it doesn’t align with what I believe, so I pruned it out. If it’s not working for you, think about doing the same.

Upstream and Downstream

Generally people think that things coming down the line have more effect, as they change things earlier on.

It’s a faulty assumption.

Think about the difference between a solid and a fluid. Push a rod from upstream and the particles at the other of the rod move simultaneously and predictably. If a process is rigid, it works this way. Delay upstream equals the same delay downstream.

Now consider a calm, flowing stream, introducing an obstruction in the middle of it, a bridge pier for example, and all sorts of wild things happen both upstream and downstream. The fluid speeds up around the obstruction. Eddy’s form. There may be recirculation where some of the water starts to flow backwards. It’s unpredictable.

Most business processes are more like the fluid. When something goes wrong downstream, it doesn’t mean upstream isn’t seeing any effects. Everything is a system, address them as such.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

That’s a book written by Marie Kondo.

In it, she outlines how to tidy up and be tidy, and it starts with discarding a significant amount of your stuff. Anything that doesn’t “Spark Joy.”

I’ve been really close to Marie on this approach for a long time, then when I got married, it became harder. What about the shared stuff? What if it sparks joy for me, and not for my wife? Do we keep it?

This is what happens in most businesses. They become untidy. Paperwork piles up. Old marketing documents are there. Half-finished projects pile up. Boxes stack up in case a new piece of equipment needs to be returned. The more employees, the more likely this is since no one seems to know who is in charge of being tidy.

Businesses, especially small ones could do well by reading this book. By passing it around to each new hire during orientation to get them in a mainframe of being tidy.

I’ll admit that while I generally keep little physical goods, and keep my space tidy, I do get untidy digitally often. Marie doesn’t address this specifically, but it’s the same idea as the paperwork approach she presents.

Like the title says, this book can change your life, but it can also change your business.

Why innovation is a ratchet in terms of marketing

If every product was actually better better better the hyperbole would become too much!

  • The first step is innovation! An entirely new way of thinking!
  • The next step is new and improved. We’re 50% better than our last stuff or our competitor!
  • Then the next step of the cycle is cheaper. We’re cheaper than that other guy, buy us!

The ratchet then continues cheaper and cheaper until cycle goes back to a new premium innovation.

People give your words back to you.

In the past, I’ve had a struggle of what felt like being honest, but was actually me being unconfident.

Recently, an acquaintance of mine lost a lot of weight, and said my husband is treating me better, strangers are smiling at me on the street, and coworkers are all nicer to me. She says, “At first, I thought all these people were super shallow, treating me better because I now look better. Then, after a couple days I had an epiphany, people are treating me better because I’m giving off a better energy. I’m smiling more. So they are smiling back. They’re giving me my positive energy back. When I was fat, I was the one that didn’t like fat people, and they gave that energy back to me too.”

If a customer asks, “Can you do this?” It’s natural to want to say, “Well, we’ve never done exactly this before, but it’s similar, so I think we can do it.”

It’s possible to just say, “Yes, we can do that.” Just make sure a couple things are true:

  • That it’s not so far out of your wheelhouse, that it’s essentially a lie. If you’re a civil engineer and you’re promising a super feat of software engineering and it’s never been your profession, you’re in this category.
  • Spell out what obstacles are, how they will be approached, and work with your client to understand the risks. If the risks weighed against your confidence are too lop-sided, then turn down the work after the proposal has been reviewed.

Use good judgment to not lie, but don’t give the client words that they will use against you when they didn’t help the customer make any educated decision about you.

“The Ultimate Porker”

That’s the name of a sandwich at Jimmy John’s. I’ve never ordered it, not because the toppings didn’t sound good, but because the name seems weird to say.

I’ve seen this in many themed restaurants over the years, item names that make me (and likely a lot of other people) feel stupid saying them, and so they are avoided. That’s good if you’re trying to create an illusion of choice while pushing people towards the same high margin dish, but bad if you’re trying to give people options.

“Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity” at IHOP as a kid comes to mind as well. Who’s going to say the “Rooty Tooty” part? It’s a mouthful!

It’s possible these menu names just aren’t for me particularly and that’s fine, but if it turns of your core audience, then it becomes a problem. It’s best to think about that clearly while naming anything.

Have we devalued the word fair?

People used to ask for “fair wages”. Now average workers are being paid wages that don’t afford rents without roommates.

Looking at surveys, satisfaction or agreement will often be measured as poor, fair, good, and excellent. Even worse if you look at Kelly Blue Book for vehicle ratings, it gets worse. Fair means bad, good means below average.

Taking that order of wording, asking for “fair pay” as an employee is the same as asking for below average or poor wages.

It’s now time to ask for “good pay” not “fair pay’.

Making something better. That’s the noble pursuit you’re following.

For decades, centuries even, good enough was fine.

Now it’s not.

The work of good enough doesn’t persuade anyone to buy from the little guy instead of the global powerhouses. It’s not worth a person’s time to understand the difference. And it’s not worth their money.

The work of good enough doesn’t allow business owners to charge prices that enable them to pay good wages to employees strengthening the community and leading to healthy lifestyles and families.

The work of good enough doesn’t attract people that want to see and experience what you have to offer. To work for you in diligence to fulfill the dreams of what you want to bring to the world.

The work of good enough, is no longer good enough.

The work of amazing is what’s required. If it doesn’t stop us in our tracks, It. Will. Be. Ignored.

If it’s not worth taking a picture of or talking about the experience, It. Will. Be. Ignored.

If it’s something seen too many times before, It. Will. Be. Ignored.

Be bold. Stand out. Try something new, even if it’s a twist on something old.

Only by being recognized as better, will you be able to make things better. For your art, for your community, and for yourself.

No matter what it is, something better is hiding within you. And by bringing it out, you’ll make the world a better place. With those stakes on the line, you can’t possibly stop.

The world needs you to do it. How can you possibly say no?

If you want to listen to the writing above spoken and placed to some music, please click play on the recorder above.

I’m not good at fighting.

If it gets to that point, I’ve already lost. I see someone like David Heinemeier Hansson calling out Google for monopolistic practices and we need people like that.

I take the otherside of the coin. While David is working to bring awareness, taking that company down a peg, I’m seeking to empower others to bring the fight to companies like Google who are running monopolies by finding ways to compete with them. I seek to empower small businesses to be better, more creative, smarter, and to capture the hearts of their audiences so that they would never want to buy from a huge company if they don’t have to.

We need both. David’s works and thoughts are great. There’s been times I’ve tried the marketing tactic of “picking a fight.” That’s not for me. I realize that now, after years of self-reflection, empowerment is my strength, not fighting.

How to keep your marketing promises.

I’ve seen companies run advertisements for a drawing, then never do the drawing.

I’ve seen companies advertise for a product that was never finished.

The simplest way to keep your marketing promises is to fulfill them before you market. If doing a drawing, buy all the prizes before announcing the drawing. Finish the product before running the first ads.

Keeping promises is a habit, after becoming better at it, then you can start running the ads in front of the product release.

Art is breaking down someone’s reality.

We call painting, sculpting, carving, and other tasks that involve a skilled user creating something of intricate design art. These are actually trades. Skilled crafts which have been honed through practice and perhaps even some schooling.

Art is breaking down someone’s reality. Convincing them of something using imagery manufactured in different methods and materials. Tradesmen and tradeswomen are common, artists are rare.

The ultimate discovery of this was when I went to hire a graphic designer. There were plenty of people that could make graphics following my directions, performing the necessary actions, there were far fewer who could take a brief on a goal of mine, and ideate then create the perfect piece for it.

Finding an artist is a rare thing, if you do, remember them. You never know when you’ll need them.

Most business blogs suck.

And almost every business with a website has one. There’s an estimate 150,000,000 blogs out there.

Imagine you had no product, but wanted to reach the same audience your product serves.

What would you write about? What would be worth those people coming to learn or be entertained by.

It’s amazing to me that so many companies don’t realize what should go into their blog. Or that they treat it as a checklist item. Create the link to the blog on the front page of the website, then proceed to write two blog posts and never another for 5 years.

  • Audience.
  • Consistency.
  • Purpose.

These are what it takes for a strong business blog. Without them, leave it alone. It’s only a distraction.

Quickest forms of influence vs. most impactful

Imagine a person you find very attractive and Noam Chomsky both asking you to get some coffee together.

If Noam Chomsky wasn’t a known thinker yet, or someone you knew of/liked, then the attractiveness would make your choice for you.

Being attractive as a fast form of influence. This is the beautiful people on instagram gain follows by posting pictures of themselves everyday.

There is an inverse relationship between the speed of influence and the power to make change. The attractive instagram model may be able to make someone open their wallets for a t-shirt, but they are unlikely to awaken people to a new political truth. Or impact the way people run their business. Or help people decide how to improve their lives.

This isn’t random. Slow forms are slow because they take understanding, effort, and enrollment from the person being influenced. By the time the influence takes place, there is depth to it. Quick influence doesn’t have much depth. It’s why we call people who care only of appearances “shallow.”

Making an impact doesn’t have many shortcuts.

Robert McCulloch understood location was a filter

I’ve written about marketing as a filter in the past. I’ll share an example of this.

Recruiting employees is marketing. They have to believe in the job, the company, and like the town. Robert McCulloch founded the town I grew up in, Lake Havasu City, Arizona. He built a huge chainsaw factory there. That’s not the amazing part though, the amazing part is that Lake Havasu City is located in the middle of the desert, surrounded by nothing. There is a lake that is formed by the Colorado River, and that’s about it. Mr. McCulloch would have to figure out a way to get people to move out here and stay here. So, he built houses for the workers to live in. What he understood is anyone willing to move to the middle of nowhere and live in one of his houses, was likely looking for something different. If he could provide that, he’d have a long-term employee. Had he built his factory in a major metropolitan area, the turnover would be a lot higher. There was no competition for jobs in Lake Havasu City. The only major cities nearby were Phoenix and Las Vegas, and those were three and half hours and two and a half hours away by car. That’s not exactly commuting distance.

Mr. McCulloch also understood, that while his first employees took a leap to leave by the lake. He would need to develop the town to attract additional workers. Not everyone wants to live where there are no grocery stores, public schools, restaurants or attractions. So he purchased the London Bridge and put it over the water to an island outside the town. This became a tourist attraction, which grew the local economy, and started to help additional businesses like restaurants move in. McCulloch’s filter grew as a result, and he was able to get more workers.

McCulloch didn’t convince anyone who didn’t already believe what he was selling them, instead he improved the conditions that allowed more people to accept what he did. That’s marketing. It’s about using creativity and generosity to filter those who are looking for what you’re providing.

Companies lose when employees don’t benefit

When an employee feels any improvement they make will go unnoticed, they stop. Almost everyone wants a reward for improving someone else’s situation.

Many employees want more money, but more money comes as a by-product of being noticed. Noticing the small changes the employee made that improve the bottom line. It could be better copywriting, more efficient processes, task automation, new customer initiatives, etc.

If the company doesn’t know anything because they are refusing to see what impact employees are making, no employee cares anymore. “Why bother?” becomes the new refrain. Employees become closed off and unaccepting of new methods, eventually they leave.

That’s not to say new employees won’t come in and try to do some new things, but a year or two in, they’ll hit the same wall as the past employees. It doesn’t seem all that big a deal, except short-term employees scratch the surface of changing things. They don’t understand most of the company operations. Long-term employees can make fundamental shifts that greatly change things, but only if companies allow them to, recognize the value of them doing so, and reward the commensurately for it.

The roundtable failure.

I worked with our marketing department one time to host a roundtable discussion about a software we sold. The idea was that people would come in to talk about issues they had, best practices, and how they can do better work, and we would lead them there.

Being a good, in-the-moment problem solver and speaker, I was asked to be at the event and told the marketing department could handle filling the event. Great!

The event happens. The preliminary presentation kicks off with a guest speaker to get everyone’s brains flowing in the right direction, then the roundtable portion starts, and it was crickets.

Almost no one had anything to discuss, which was the main billing of the event!

I did my best to probe some topics and ask questions of customers I knew and things started rolling, but ultimately they fell short of our expectations.

What was the failure?

Marketing didn’t understand the audience.

There were a few factors at play here:

  1. A significant amount of people came only to learn from others. Our marketing team allowed anyone to register, they didn’t ask for a short application that may have asked for one item like, “Tell us a question you’re hoping the roundtable can answer for you and how it relates to your work.” Anything to qualify that someone had something to discuss before coming.
  2. This software is targeted at very technical engineers. These types tend to be introverted, so the format didn’t necessarily fit the audience. A system that had collected questions beforehand and had queued up answers, demonstrations, etc, would have helped engage people much more.
  3. The roundtable wasn’t focused enough on a specific topic, industry, etc. It was to open-ended, so questions for one person, didn’t fit the rest of the group.

Events like this are reminders of how to do better upon reflection.

Ceding authority to software.

It seems to me companies are starting to cede authority to software. Take HireVue for instance. It recommends which candidates are right for a job based on videos of them answering questions.

Why would a company implement this?

I’m sure they’ll say it lowers our hiring costs.

How does it lower costs?

It speeds things up by making decisions for us.

There you have it, it lowers costs by making decisions. The problem is there isn’t a more important decision than who to hire. The people in a company determine everything! Companies using HireVue have basically told an AI software company that they know best about how to hire for an industry they aren’t part of!

As an investor, I would be weary of stock in any company I found using this technology. It basically say, “We don’t know what we’re doing. We can’t even pick good candidates!”

That brings me to a bigger point, in reality, companies say they are using this to be more efficient, in reality it’s to offload liability of hiring discrimination lawsuits. “It’s the algorithm!” We didn’t pick them. Take it up with HireVue.

AI software for hiring is a problem. There will be feedback loops. There will be people who AI initially picks for roles who then get experience that it then uses to pick for other better roles. Not nearly enough data is collected on what doing a good job means, so even the data going in is likely flawed. This isn’t a good use of an AI tool.

Races to the bottom are the worst.

Competing on price is one form of race to the bottom. Winning that race involves leaving no money in the budget for growth, and may even have a company constantly teetering on the edge of destruction financially.

Other races to the bottom include ethics, life principles, and taxes. Each of these has its own drawbacks.

The question is why are they so often engaged in?

  1. Races to the bottom don’t require creativity.
  2. Races to the bottom are easy to be clear about what the goal is.
  3. Races to the bottom are self-fulfilling (with no money to left to get new equipment, or provide new services, more work only comes from under-cutting) and once on that wheel it’s tough to get off.

Buy once, Buy right

My wife and I came up with a conclusion years ago, we can’t afford everything, so when we do buy something it should be the one we want.

We went a couple years without a couch after buying a house because we didn’t want an Ikea couch. We were saving up for one that was nice, had quality construction and would last.

Occasionally, there are some exceptions, but this our default approach, and it’s saved us a lot of money.

I would like to thank Simulia

Simulia isn’t a well known brand amongst the general population. It’s not a well known brand amongst the general engineering population. It is a well known brand among engineering structural analysts.

When I’m on a general website and see a “I would like to thank Simulia.” message. I know it was posted by a marketing team through a fake account. This attempt at marketing is not a great way to go about things.

It’s desperate.

Yet, I know where they are coming from. Their target audience is small. It’s hard to reach. It’s hard to have a clear, distinctive message to serve them all. It seems like a shortcut to do this sort of marketing.

It’s not for them. It’s not for you.

Find a way to generously engage. That’s the way forward. Some thoughts on this can be found in my growing body of work that can be read by clicking here.

Why Ricky Gervais is paid to roast celebs at the Golden Globes.

I’ve mentioned this phenomenon in my post of “I hate Elvis” stickers.

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who love the glitz and glam of Hollywood and those who hate it. The ones that love it, tune in for the celebrities. The ones that hate it tune in to see Ricky take the celebrities down a peg. By creating tension, they get both audiences to tune in.

They create drama. They create buzz. Each side saying they love or hate Ricky Gervais.

The bonus is the arguing back and forth between the audience on twitter creates better promotion for the Golden Globes.

The myth that nature knows something we don’t

I look to nature for inspiration, but something has bothered me for a while. Nature doesn’t know what it’s doing.

Take genetics for example, nature isn’t combining them in a smart way, it’s simply combining them randomly. Poor outcomes filter themselves out, while good outcomes thrive.

If someone was born with small nostrils, and heavy nose hair causing them breathing issues, it’s not good just because nature arrived at it. All it means is nature arrived at that “design” and thought it was worth testing based on the fitness of the parents genetics that produced it. It may be possible that combination prevents strenuous tasks because breathing during it is difficult.

Nature can be inspiration, but make sure that it’s a good design you’re inspired by. Natural doesn’t equal best in all cases.

The purpose of marketing isn’t to convince, it’s to filter.

Convincing comes from people wondering what they are missing. That starts with connecting a big group and then wondering what it’s all about.

When businesses start out, they have zero track record. Convincing someone who wants social proof isn’t going to happen, so your marketing shouldn’t focus on doing so. It should focus on finding those who want to go first with what you’re doing. Eventually, more and more social proof shows up, then more people start making it through the filter. You’re not convincing them, the social proof is.

Connecting a bunch of people in a community, raises the proof. Past results show that it works. That’s the convincing. Everything else is a filter to get the right people to see the work that they could benefit from.

The average small business website changes nothing daily.

Small, consistent steps are the secret to success. Go to any small business website, an interior designer, a dentist office, a salon, whatever you want, it’s likely that website is the same today that it will be tomorrow.

Is it not possible to fit five minutes to write a single thought about how they could make their customers lives better every day?

Eventually, those thoughts will fill pages and pages. They’ll need curation. They’ll need editing. They’ll need graphics added to them. Then they’ll have information of value to offer their customers.

Warner Bros. AI for film decisions.

Warner Bros. recently announced they would use AI software to make decisions for films.

Can you imagine hiring a company to run your company and simply saying, “Make all the most critical business decisions for us?”

That’s what they are doing. The company and the implementation of the AI software and the data chosen are going to decide every film decision Warner Bros. make!

The problem with this is data reinforcement. AI works off past data. As a result, it will only pick past stars. That doesn’t leave much room for an up-and-comer.

This is an opportunity! Not for Warner Bros., but for the little guy. It’s unlikely Warner Bros. will do anything new, so if you are a small, independent filmmaker, put your heart and soul into a film, and kill it. By ceding decision responsibility to a computer, Warner Bros. is sealing their fate.

“A lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it…

…and one can move the Earth.”

Theoretically, of course.

Practically, the fulcrum would have to be strong enough to support the enormous load. Realistically, the lever would have to be able to balance the Earth on it, while the fulcrum is sitting on a much larger planet, and the force is applied from a 3rd planet.

This saying is meant to only illustrate the power of understanding physics, but like anything, the understanding can be taken out of context, and provide those who don’t fully grasp the concept to think more is possible than reality.

If you can understand the details of what this implementation would actually look like, requiring 3 planets, then you understand the limitations. Apply that same notion to any simple saying to test understanding.

Why your knees wobble under pressure.

People have wants, but usually those aren’t the same as their needs. The tension between the two is what creates undesirable effects.

I’ve been a competitive bowler for a long-time. I’ve been in situations with thousands of dollars on the line for a single shot or two. In those cases, your legs feel like Jell-O. Throwing the ball doesn’t feel the same as it did all the other times in your life. This is the tension between wants and needs.

When thousands of dollars are on the line, wanting to win is natural. However, in the moment, what is needed is a properly executed shot. If dropping the idea of the money out of the bowler’s head was possible, aligning both their want and need to be a good shot, there would be much more feeling in their legs.

Why is this true?

The bowler has made many good shots before, so their want of a good shot is something that feels like them. However, if they’re throwing a ball for $50,000 and they’ve never had more than $5,000 in the bank, it feels like it’s not them. It’s not something they’ve done or are qualified for. Their brain creates a tension due to the stakes of a better life being on the line.

For events that are quick, like a single bowling throw for huge money, it’s hard to ever clear your mind of the tension between the want and need. In fact, that’s the drama the promoters are looking for, so removing it would take away the benefit of those who put up the money.

However, for long-term events, like blogging or a game channel production, or a small business growth, it’s possible to align your wants to be your needs. It will eliminate everything that’s putting pressure on you, freeing you to do the best work of your life.