I love that ahrefs has a paid trial.

ahrefs is a tool for search engine optimization of websites. They claim to be the best at what they do, and there are a ton of people who believe that online. They have a few different competitors, and they cost $99/month. All of their competitors have a free trial of varying lengths. ahrefs has a discounted “7 days for $7 dollars” trial. The psychology of that makes me believe the story of them being the best. Why does everyone else give theirs away for free, while ahrefs can charge?

I’m about generosity here, but I’ve also been in the software world and know that most times people devalue a trial period of software. It’s much different than trials for brownies. If it’s free they request it, get busy and don’t use it. Do you think they will waste that trial period if they had to pay for it?

Not as likely.

The paid trial offers five things:

  • Confidence in the product. The fact they can charge for a trial and it doesn’t seem to be hindering their growth means they must make a great product.
  • Value. Paying for a trial makes it valuable. The customer has literally put a price on it. They will use it in that period or suffer wasting their cash. It makes it more likely that they’ll see your products full usage.
  • Story. That you’re the premium product, the one to beat.
  • Innovation/Differentiation – Why can they have the confidence to do a paid trial when no one else can?
  • It also acts as a filter. I’ll bet they have a higher conversion to full paid accounts than the other brands because the people who did the trial have already paid before. They aren’t just tire kickers, they’re looking to buy.

P.S. If you’re interested, I talk a bit more about story and differentiation in the guide to marketing I’ve been working on for a while.

The Hustle of Disruption…

talk about a myth.

For years, I had messaging from Venture Captial blogs I followed and tech news that disruption is happening at an unprecedented pace. Perhaps it is in the number of jobs replaced, but it’s also happening incredibly slowly too.

True disruption of manufacturing, design, is incredibly slow. Whenever I had a unique business idea I was disheartened assuming someone else would finish before me since I couldn’t devote full-time to it. After 7 years selling technologies, I can tell you, adoption of disruptions isn’t that fast unless it’s software or something “cheap”.

Companies, the ones that will purchase from you, just don’t move that fast. Sure, a company may create technology that fast, but the market doesn’t respond that fast. My company sells 3D Printers, not the kind that can be purchased for hobbyists for a couple hundred dollars, but higher end ones that have strength, or they ability to produce large quantities overnight. Markforged and HP in particular.

While there are plenty of applications for these printers that offer huge returns-on-investment (ROI) for companies, they need to talk about it internally, plan it for next years budget, get a consensus that is on-board, and generally wait to hear about someone else who has actually bought and done their exact application first.

It’s a long process. Your hustle in development won’t speed it up. It’s called an adoption cycle for a reason. It has a cycle time to it, and it’s probably not set by you.

So relax, set a clear vision, then work steadily and have patience, if you’re making something great the market almost always comes around after waiting long enough, but like coronavirus or the flu, products that work tend to spread at their own pace regardless of what we want.

Frank Gehry's website hasn't changed much since 2008.

Take a look at Frank Gehry’s website:

https://web.archive.org/web/20090228144935/http://www.foga.com/ is a link to it back in 2008. If you visit it today at www.foga.com you’ll find it looks almost identical.

Frank’s work stands out. It’s in magazines. People walk by it. They see it. They interact with it. He gets his pick of work. He doesn’t need a fancy website because he is known.

It’s possible that you’re focusing on your website (or other details) too much if your website isn’t what gets the attention in your work. If you do work that is “out in the world” it’s likely your work will get the attention you want, focus on it more.

Somebody will eventually have the patience you don’t.

There are an unknowable amount of problems to solve out there. An infinite amount of art to be created. At times, it seems like we’ll never be able to do it, to be the person who solves the problems or creates the art, but it’s mostly because we lack the patience.

A problem can take 50 years to solve.

An artist can take 40 years to become known.

Deadlines are human constructs, not divine ones. The practice and the effort are more important than the results. Let the results drive your behavior on how much to invest.

If you want to be the artist or the problem solver that people look up to, patience is a requirement. If you don’t have it, someone else will.

You can't see the end of a podcast until it's done.

I’ve always liked work that I can’t see the end of. Once I do, it’s done in my mind and I find it harder to finish. If it’s all just tasks left to be fulfilled, then the possibilities are gone, and it holds little meaning.

When editing a podcast, I generally listen to it once through, editing out the typical pauses that feel too long, “ums”, and any other words that don’t add much value to the conversation. From there, I reaffirm what the point of the episode was, and listen again, cutting out stuff that doesn’t match the theme. Finally, I decide if there is anywhere that can be bolstered by music, or a sound to mark a transition, and at the end of all that I add the intro music, and the outro music.

I listen one final time and decide if everything is good to go. It’s a lot of labor, but it keeps me engaged because it never feels like it’s done. It could be tweaked forever, but as they say, “Great artists ship” so it’s has to get out there sometime.

If your work is boring you, perhaps you need a new kind of work, work that you can’t see the end of.

Most of us will never design a submarine…

…but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t check our assumptions like it. Spain recently had an issue with a submarine that would have acted as a very expensive anchor.

Designing a submarine is an intricate balance of everything, power systems, oxygen systems, weight distribution, and buoyancy. All these systems need careful planning, and have to be accounted for together. Starting with a wrong specification at the early stages is a catastrophe as all other design systems will cascade and have issues to.

It’s much easier to be super thorough at the beginning than to figure out fixes later. Always check assumptions as early as possible in a large project. Double check, then also have someone else check. There is a lot at stake.

Snacks, raises, or vacations for pet people.

I heard on the radio that studies show that if an office provides snacks their workers tend to ask for less raises.

More specifically, pet people are willing to forgo snacks, days of vacation and raises of 1% in a trade for the ability to bring their pet to the office.

Finding what the audience you seek to serve wants is what it is all about because generally they sacrifice in other areas to get it, though if you don’t make them sacrifice that’s great too.

How do you write…

A drama, a horror, or a comedy?

For a drama cut out anything funny.

For a horror cut out anything not creepy.

For a comedy cut out anything not funny.

There are very few movies that follow a character for 1.5 hours of sequential time, so it’s all about editing the story to create the type you want.

Extend this idea to other mediums as needed.

Trading in for reasonable

I recently posted an article about patience. I received a comment that my leaving architecture wasn’t about patience because architects make less than engineers, so it was just being reasonable. Of course, if that’s reasonable, then I should have gone to be a doctor they make even more. There are endless trade-offs that can be made under the guise of reasonableness.

This happens a lot in life. People tell you things like, “There are easier ways to make money.” or to “Go for the guarantee.”

Of course, this is good advice if you don’t want to make much change happen, and aren’t willing to trade unique, important work for not having to sell your own work.

Writing in Finnish.

Those works are only readable by 5 million people. It’s a lot, but considering wildly successful products are seen by less then 1 percent of the population, that’s only 50,000 books. Not so good especially if sold over 5 years.

The medium matters. Perhaps someone who wants to be a writer who is Finnish needs to learn English, or Chinese! It’s not always fair where our starting points are, but if we are clear about our intentions and desired outcomes it’s possible to determine if learning English or Chinese is worth getting to where we want to go.

A case study without a story

is just conjecture about numbers. It’s not worth writing and it’s certainly not worth reading.

When I’m often stuck writing or write something I’m not happy with, it’s because it was too general. There wasn’t a specific story. That makes it impossible to be interesting, no matter how great your writing skills.

It turns out writing skills aren’t writing skills at all, they are story skills. And story skills are about seeing the story, distilling the story, and making it in interesting.

That’s all there is to it. Studies are a lot better with stories.

Power is getting someone to believe they have no choice.

A politician that gets all the votes because he is the only choice is powerful.

A corporation that acquires a monopoly and becomes the only choice is powerful.

The title of this post isn’t the definition you’ll find in the dictionary though a lot of definitions will mention influence, however, it means that the antonym of power is competition. Yet, that doesn’t come up in any thesaurus. Instead what comes up is:

None of these seem to fit to me. You’re not a failure just because you’re not powerful. You’re not inefficient just because you’re not powerful. You’re not inable just because you’re not powerful, nor are you incompetent.

Power is a story. A belief that there is no other option, however, in a world of infinite options there is always a choice if we can live with the consequences.

p,S, This topic seems to run deeper, like there is an essay here, so I’ll probably write one in the future.

Expanding the world, that’s what Disney does.

Disney bought Star Wars. Now they are making more movies, a show, and I’m sure they’ll do some theme park work. Expanding worlds is what Disney does. They take something that’s a story, then turn it into merchandise, write backstories, build worlds that you can walk into.

There is plenty of room for this from others, but yet it’s the most common from Disney.

Is there a world that exists today that you could expand? Perhaps a book you enjoyed? Or a movie your friend made?

Trust me.

That means I don’t have data, experience, stories, or people to point to to make my point. That my argument hinges on a story that I believe because something about it resonates with me.

The problem comes when the person asked to have faith doesn’t resonate with the story.

When someone says “trust me,” know that there is no evidence to present.

There can be a few exceptions, but usually this rule is steadfast.

What’s New?

How does someone answer that question?

I always come back to what a gym owner told me once. When business is dwindling, he always asks his staff, “When is the last time we helped someone lose 50+ lbs” If no one can answer, this is the reason business is dwindling. He says when they help someone lose that kind of weight, it renews current member’s motivation. It makes people around that person who don’t go to the gym want to start. It raises the gym’s status. Signups increase.

With that in mind, try to keep a story of a recent win/ positive impact you had on a customer as a what’s new. Just like if the gym owner was asked, “What’s new?” His response could be, “Well we helped Randy over there lose 100lbs.” That’s a good answer, truthful, and strengthens the reason the business exists in the first place.

51%, 67%, 76%, 81%, 91%, 96%, 99%

Out of 2 you’re the tallest.

Out of 3, you’re the smartest.

Out of 4, you’re the wealthiest

Out of 5, you’re the most creative.

Out of 10, you’re the most generous.

Out of 20, you’re the most popular.

Out of 100, you’re the most likely to succeed.

The numbers in the title are percentiles. Each line above corresponds to one of those percentiles in a comparison of group size. As you can see at the lower end a difference of 16% means that the sample size only has to move from 2 to 3 to see your relative standing. At the upper end, a difference of 3% (99%-96%) means that a sample size of a 100, rather than 20, is necessary to show your relative skill.

It’s no wonder out-sized rewards go to those at the top. Constantly be seeking out what you can own, but keep in mind that in and of itself is a process, a long journey requiring continued introspection. Don’t stop, you’ll find it eventually.

Below is an illustration of the sample sizes required to be measured as the best to that percentile. Seek to be the 99%, but have patience in getting there.

P.S. That’s a lot of Ryan Gosling photos.

Is “hacking” algorithms the new future?

That’s what SEO is after all. It’s taking an algorithm that is obscure in it’s implementation figuring out critical parameters, and making a website improve those parameters in order to improve the order a page rank shows up in.

I’ve discussed about ceding authority to software before. What happens when a group of people figures out how to do this for hiring algorithms like the ones made at HireVue?

What happens when people do this for credit at companies like Apple?

It’s growing increasingly likely that those who figure out how to hack algorithms of our world will be winners on the path society is heading down.

Is that what we want?

Sales is driving traffic

Marketing has taken a much larger role in selling a product than it used to. Once upon a time a billboard might get someone to call a company, that call was a product of marketing, after that they were passed to a salesperson who figured out how to close a deal.

Today, in many industries this has changed as a result of drastically dropping production costs, YouTube, email, and smartphones. The media that can be made and distributed can be done so fast that sales has become more of a driver of traffic to your media, rather than the closer themselves.

In a few open-ended type consultancy based business this isn’t the case. It has to be worked out what is needed and required. Then a solution has to be determined. Then an implementation has to occur. All of those steps require people coordinating things ensuring expectations are set.

There is a reason more salespeople are becoming an inside dialer only. They are now being relegated to another means of simply driving traffic to a website or medium in the same way that billboards, TV or radio ads, digital advertising, newspapers, magazines, and podcasts do. That’s not to say they are indispensable, they could be your most focused, highly targeted advertising medium, with the best results, they are simply performing a different function than they used to, which was closing deals.

Is consistency the goal?

When it comes to an experience, the answer is always yes. Consistently high standards is the only way forward.

When it comes to a product, the answer is only sometimes. Consider that old electric guitars used to have hand wound humbuckers which were responsible for picking up the vibrations of the string. Being hand wound meant each one was different. Each guitar made had a unique sound character to it. Today those guitars are often in demand. Bringing on machinery to wind the humbuckers made every guitar sound the same, but that’s not always desirable if your audience wants to be original.

That’s where knowing an audience comes in. Searching for hand wound pickups, yields a small business doing just that. Brandon Wound Pickups is making pickups that sound like those made in the glory days for people who want them to foster their signature sound.

A nice feature of a hand wound pickup is that it can’t be automated, this is a small business that creates jobs. The more popular it becomes the more workers it employs. That’s great for everybody.

Keep doing what you’re doing Jared.

Own the network not the show.

Digital advertising on Google and Facebook seems like a revelation. Both are platforms that can reach millions of people with multiple different ads based not only on their demographics, but on their psychographics as well.

However, it’s not all upside. Many people start a business to be their own boss. Set the rules. If a business is built by a majority of advertising through these platforms, they own your business. They are the network and you are the show.

If they want to cancel you and not run their ads, you’re finished. If they want to charge you more, you’ll have to raise prices.

Owning the network should be the goal. These approaches can be used but they should be tempered, only used as one leg of your business advertising, and a small one at that. If resiliency and control of the business is the goal, then redundancy in all aspects is necessary including marketing.

Your strong personality is bottlenecking you.

I’ve dealt with hundreds of customers with strong personalities, and one thing I’ve noticed is that people below them may have good ideas, but when confronted with pushback from a strong personality they drop the whole thing. Most employees can’t stand up to a huge level of scrutiny.

Strong personalities tend to come from decisiveness, making a decision about a belief one time and being done with it.

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

As F. Scott Fitzgerald notes, intelligence is correlated with the ability hold two opposed ideas. That means giving a new idea equal weight to a held belief until it can be determined which is correct. Most people don’t operate this way. They hold on tightly to their first belief. That’s why nefarious marketers target children. Getting children to believe smoking is cool for instance, means it takes significantly more effort to get them to change that belief than it did to create it.

Intelligence is throwing out the bad data, and replacing it with better stuff, however, you’ll never see the better ideas, if you’re stuck firmly to the old ones and scrutinizing anyone who offers something else.

Short-term vs long-term

Everyone is trying to figure out that balance.

Short-term feels good. It’s a quick win. It doesn’t require much patience or consistency. It doesn’t require a vision. It also has a much smaller impact.

Long-term feels terrible at first. Like a goal that will never be reached. It requires faith. It requires vision, but the impact it can have is immense.

Here are a few long-term vs. short-term items to consider:

  • patient marketing vs. digital advertising – Impact: Owning your marketing platform
  • paying above market wages vs. below market wages – Impact: Employee retention
  • tidying up using the KonMari method vs never tidying – Impact: More focus, less wasted time.
  • creating systems vs. handling each task individually – Impact: Removing time for decisions.

James Clear made a good point, “Bad habits give you instant gratification, and delayed consequences. Good habits give you positive consequences, with delayed gratification.” That’s a paraphrase but it’s also true. Everyone wants to take the long-term approach, but we’re human. There is a limit on patience. There is a limit on faith. There is a tension while the magic of long-term thinking starts showing returns.

To get better at the long-term, get more comfortable with the tension.

Patience is an ingredient.

It’s not possible to be an overnight success, unless ignoring the steps that lead to that night.

“Patience is a virtue.”

Of course, patience without action is wishing. That’s not good either.

The ability to do great work, little by little, accumulating into something larger is what is meant.

It takes time to develop your work. It takes time for your work to spread. It takes time for your investments to pay off. It takes time for everyone to see the situation the same.

Your subpar work.

My work the last month has felt subpar. I felt prior that I was on a roll of insight. Of course, by definition 50% of my work has to be subpar. Perhaps, this period in my life is slightly distracted. Or my expectations have risen. Or I haven’t been inspired enough with particular insight.

None of that is all that big of an issue. The bigger issue is stopping the work, thinking that it will work itself out.

Keep doing the work, eventually things will swing the other way and you’ll be doing the 50% that’s above par.

Early adoption requires intuitive language.

Studying Myers-Briggs and other psychological profiling types, it becomes clear that brains think in multiple ways.

Some brains think in broad strokes, while others think in details. My wife for example, thinks in details. Instead of calling me and saying, “I need a piece of information off the paper on my desk,” she will say, “Go upstairs. Walk to the desk. Their is a paper to the upper left of the keyboard, read me the account number.” She thinks detailed.

Why does this matter?

Studies have shown that intuitive types tend to think more about the future, while detailed types think more about the past. This means that most times, when offering something new, big picture stories need to be utilized. These resonate with the intuitive types who are most likely to utilize your revolutionary product.

Of course, there are a lot of other factors at play to like the product, the problem, the location, etc.

Take it on faith.

One reason people market to a religious group is because they have “faith.” That means that they don’t need data to back up their beliefs. Only an authority and a good story.

One way to filter people in marketing is the “faithful” vs. “doubtful”. One needs a story, the other needs data.