How about some quick post three day weekend inspiration to get you motivated today? This savory bit was pulled from the new (and free) mini-ebook “Innovation Begins Here: How to Become the Hero in the Hero’s Journey” by Mr. Brian Solis (http://www.BrianSolis.com).
“Innovation begins here. Innovation begins with you.
You are the change agent. You will help influence an uprising that overturns the prevailing
culture of management into that of leadership and innovation.
It’s not easy, but it’s within your ability and reach.
It takes courage to do what others will not.
It takes vision to see what others can’t.
It takes empathy to feel what others experience.
It takes persistence to overcome resistance.
It takes patience to allow the time necessary for your work to bloom.
In the end, it takes you.
Where you are and where you need to be is separated only by your vision and also
your actions and words.
Savor this moment. And then do something about it.”
Solis is also the author of “WTF [of Business]“, “The End of Business as Usual”, as well as “Engage!”. For more info and links to your favorite book provider: http://www.BrianSolis.com/books
Free Download: “Innovation Begins Here: How to Become the Hero in the Hero’s Journey”
Recently I was a participant in a conversation / brainstorming session and someone else proclaimed, “If your competition is doing it, you have to do it too.” While my teeth slowly came down on my tongue I thought, “My Gawd, NO! Me-too isn’t a viable strategy. Follow the blind leading the blind? No way man. Where you should be is where your Guests expect you to be.” However, that does raise the question: Who is your competition?
Back story: In the 90′s I owned an (offline) retail store that sold music (i.e., vinyl records and CDs), as well as clothing and some other things. The “prevailing wisdom” back then was that other businesses similar to Planet X (the name of the store) were the competition. In retrospect that perception was off-target. The competition was not my music retail peers as much as it was the other interests of my customers. For example, video games. When someone spent $50 on a video game then chances were good they didn’t have that $50 to spend on music (or clothing). The competition wasn’t another store in the next town but that the customer believe the best value for his/her buck was something other than what we offered.
Here are two articles that touch upon the new ideal of competition:
“A Winning Playbook” – Kim S. Nash and Lauren Brousell (CIO.com)
“Disrupt of Die” – Kim S. Nash (CIO.com)
With the internet that effect gets magnified, obviously. Pardon me to stating the obvious but at any given moment you are just a click away from losing the attention of your customers to someone or something else. Your competition is now everywhere, 24/7. Obviously, you can not—and should not—be everywhere. In addition, the people (i.e., The Guests) you are trying to reach have a finite amount of time and a finite amount of attention. The possibilities are endless. The answer is to redefine what competition means in decade two of the 21st century.
Here are the new rules for the new game:
- Step 1: Abandon the myths of the 20th century, especially those that were never true to begin with.
- Step 2: Think like your Guests. What are their expectations? What does their ideal experience look/feel like? Obsess over that, not the illusion of individual competitors.
- Step 3: Spend some time in the mirror asking why and when you are your biggest enemy (read: competition). How are you preventing you from identifying and delivering the ideal experience?
- Step 4: Repeat.
Ready? Set? Go!
Every now and then you come across something that begs to be shared. This podcast is one of those moments:
Standford’s Entrepreneurship Corner Thought Leaders Series presents Tim O’Reilly
Yes, that’s Mr. Web 2.0 of O’Reilly Publishing fame. While I trust you’ll take the time to listen to Tim, these are the ideas that intrigued me. (Note: Some are quotes, some simply paraphrased, and some are O’Reilly quoting others.)
- Edwin Schlossberg: “The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.”
- Implicit context
- Embrace hardware as well as software
- Software above the level of a single device
- A system in the space between devices…not just a single application
- The Law of Conservation of Attractive Profits
- Software is a commodity. Data is the new currency of value.
- Rethink workflows and the experience
- Think differently about human / machine symbiosis
- We don’t have better algorithms. We just have more data.
- It’s a fairly hard AI problem to pick a traffic light out of a video stream. It’s a trivial AI problem to figure out if it’s red or green if you already know that it’s there.
- Reputation systems
- Close the loop
- What loops can you change? How can you make things smarter? And close the loop?
- Enable an economy
- Create more value than you capture
- Make other people successful
- Work on stuff that matters
- Idealism is good for your business
- Work on things that are hard. Find hard problems.
- Look a little sideways
- Code For America (http://CodeForAmerica.org)
- O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (http://OATV.com)
- It’s an ongoing process
- Find interesting problems that are relevant locally
- It’s about narrating your work in public
- Sometimes it takes a long time, keep at it
- Who do you want your customers to be
- Subscription is an important business model
- Sensors (hardware) are talking to software
- The Maker Movement
- Square enabled coffee shop
Share this! And listen to it again and gain. You’ll hear a little more each time.
Time flies when…well…um…time flies. I blink and “next week” somehow morphs into couple weeks behind me. Is it just me? It’s not just me, right? In short, too much work, too much to do, and not quite enough time to share quality content here with you. Sorry. I acknowledge my faults and promise you I’ve got processes running in the background to remedy this. Thanks for your understanding. Let’s move on.
About a month ago I picked up the book “Trillions” by Peter Lucas, Joe Ballay and Mickey McManus. I was inspired to read “Trillions” after attending a presentation followed by a book signing at Princeton University by Mr. McManus. You can read more about that event here: http://www.alchemyunited.com/2012/10/26/a-million-millions-is-trillions.
If you’re interested you can follow my “Trillions” chapter by chapter efforts here:
Typically, as I’m consuming a book, I do a chapter by chapter “key takeaway” blurb (read: brief) on my Chief Alchemist “workstream” site / blog. That said, Chapter 6 (Design Science on Trillions Mountain) of “Trillions” has a number of insightful gems that demand to be shared.
- Beyond Design Thinking To Design Science: [Buckminster] Fuller called his approach Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science.
- Design Science rejects a purely relativist view of traditional design thinking. In Design Science we avoid notions such as “liking” a design for personal or superficially stylistic reasons. There will always be a variety of good designs—some better than others; bounded rationality and the sheer diversity of problem situations suffice to ensure that. But there are also wrong designs…But it is to say that, give a proper statement of goals and a sufficiently broad and careful consideration of the entire situation—technical, human, and market—it is possible to establish principled, professional, systematic techniques that rationally select some design over others.
- The goal was to understand the whole ecology of people, places, documents, and information, and to model it early, before degrees of freedom had been used up in designing individual pieces of the system…Making—through, iterative, frequent, parallel prototyping—is a design method that turns indistinct dreams into tangible goals in record time.
- Make The Right Thing: The Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851 exposed the human weakness for celebrating what can be done with technology, with little thought about what should be done. We need to remind ourselves that even though we may have some prowess in making things right, we need to put equal emphasis on making the right things. What goals, processes, and guidelines will lead us to the right things—made right?
- Action at the Interstices (by Pete): I like to visualize all human knowledge as a giant jigsaw puzzle, where each academic discipline is a puzzle piece. In some sense, there is only one picture, and the cuts that we made to the puzzle pieces are artificial and arbitrary…So, the interstices between disciplines are always where the action is. It is where the best practitioners go to invent the future.
- If we are going to design for Trillions in a way that is human-literate, rather than forcing people to become ever more computer-literate, we need to keep the human at the center of the process. We need a vision of how we will come to understand not just people and their needs and desires, but also how they will be affected by the myriad devices that will become intimate parts of their everyday lives.
- Studying one product in isolation, unconnected from its “social life,” will no longer suffice…To add to the challenge, the range of potential products that have become technically feasible is becoming nearly boundless…Sizing up the market to decide where to invest one’s efforts and capital has always been a core challenge of business, even when the range of possibilities was severely bounded. Now that so many of the bounds have been lifted, the challenge is that much greater. Remember the stuff in the Crystal Palace.
- If “ship early, ship often” is interpreted as the willingness to expose not-quite-feature-complete but well-tested products to the healthy pressures of real users, everybody wins. But if it is used as an excuse for shipping half-baked, flaky products; using your customers as unpaid quality-assurance staff—and counting on ever-lowering expectations of quality in a slipshod marketplace numbed by crashing TVs and bug-filed software—it is another matter entirely.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery suggested this way:”A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
- What’s happened is that the complexity didn’t disappear. It shifted.
- All of science is based on cycles of Hypothesis >> Model >> Test >> New Hypothesis, and Design Science is no exception.
- Progress in science is paced not just by advances in theory, but also by advances in methodology. Design Science is no exception.
- Our collective goal must be convergence toward a unified user experience. A common interaction physics is the golden path to this goal. Consistency builds confidence, and confidence provides feelings of control, security, and comfort…Our ability to build civilization itself would be called into question if everything were as plastic as most software products.
- Informatin-Centric Interaction Design: It is possible to identify four distinct states in the evolution of human-computer interaction. Command-centric. Application-centric. Document-centric. Information-centric.
- We are on the verge of building system unprecedented both in their scale and in their very nature. It is one thing to design a usable computer program. Is is quite another to design a usable environment when that environment compromises innumerable semiautonomous devices mediating an unbounded swirl of constantly flowing information. Usability, or the lack thereof, will be an emergent property of such a milieu.
You might also be interested in this on TheAtlantic.com:
MAYA Tames Complexity in the Age of Trillions
By Kathryn Hawkins
Yes! I agree, you should go buy the book already. Chapter 6 at double the price would still be a bargain.
Earlier this year, after watching the Grammys I wrote a posted titled: “Lessons in business from the soul singer Adele”. So after catching Taylor Swift on 60 Minutes this past Sunday I decided it was time for a similar follow up. Who knows, perhaps I’ll position these pop music inspirations as another series in the AU blogging lexicon. Time will tell.
Watch the video:
Read the transcript:
Note: Some of these thoughts might be slight repeats from the Adele article. To me this confirms that great minds think alike.
—It’s never too early to start. Ms. Swift has sold millions of downloads, tickets and CDs and she’s barely into her twenties. The 60 minutes piece goes back to her pre-teens. In short, she’s been working towards this for quite some time. How prepared are you and your brand for the long run?
—Be fearless and relentless. Ms. Swift had such a strong vision and belief in herself that she was willing to tell her record company to take a hike. It was they who needed her, not the other way around. Go Taylor! No one loves a wishy-washy brand with no character. On top of that, as a teen she played bars and other venues that were probably less receptive to her and he type of music. None the less, she played though and built strength and confidence. Lesson: The beaten path is for the beaten. A true champion isn’t afraid to build character, learn from that and then press on.
—Be true to yourself and authentic to the world. Rather than sing songs someone else wrote, Ms. Swift insisted she sing her own. How could she be herself if she was merely puppeting someone else? Perhaps this is a lesson Mitt Romney could stand to learn?
—Be engaged with your fans and followers. There are few pop-stars who are successful enough to hide behind the curtain of super-stardom. Clearly, Ms. Swift is one of them. But does she hide? Nope. Before, during and after shows she’s directly engaged with her fans. Are there times she would prefer not to? Of course. But successful brand building isn’t about doing what you want to do, it’s about doing what you need to do to get the job done. Shaking hands might suck but having no hands to shake sucks even more, eh?
—Be engaged with your own brand. Perhaps 60 Minutes was kind to her and edited out shades of control-freak, micro-manager, etc. I don’t think that was the case. Ms. Swift, despite her youth, embraces the fact that no one understands and defines her brand better than she does. She could certainly afford to outsource such things yet she takes the extra time and in turn reaps the benefits. I can think of quite a few adults I know who aren’t this wise on this matter.
—Quality still matters. If tired manufactured controversy sells best and mindless pop fodder is what the people want to hear, then someone please explain Ms. Swift (and Adele). Be wary of those who champion short cuts for they are probably doing so because they lack the wherewithal to stand alone at the top. Simply put, there are no short cuts to being the best. Gimmicks are like cigarettes, one by one they will shorten the life of your brand.
—Be humble. This one I know is a Adele repeat. Great as these two artists are you would never know it. They let their talent, accomplishments and their fans do the talking. There’s not need for excessive bravado and the usual PR cliches. While I don’t want to come across as sexist, I have to wonder if this is a natural advantage women have that testosterone types do not.
“Disruptive Innovation Made Easy” by Paul Michelman (Harvard Business Review, 7 June 2012). Since launching my work-streamy Chief Alchemist website (http://ChiefAlchemist.com) I’ve tried to reserve Alchemy United for more “original” proactive content, and less in-response-to content. This post actually started on CA but as it developed I decided its thoughts qualify as Alchemy United material. I hope you agree.
This is the comment I left on HBR:
“Each industry has practices that drive customers crazy,” write the authors of Smart Customers, Stupid Companies. Take technology providers’ technical support, with its long hold times “hopelessly complex interactions.” Is there something companies in your industry do that’s just as stupid? “Identify these types of practices, and wipe them out.”
With a fair amount of certainty I believe I can say we’re all in favor of innovation. With that being said, it’s still no substitute for good old fashion execution. Execution that meets Guest (aka customer) expectations. Forget “wow”, today I’m just shooting for “thanks, that’s great.”
Let me give you a perfect example. A couple days ago I was on the deals site Slick Deals (http://SlickDeals.net) and spotted a product at a particularly great price from Adorama (http://Adorama.com). For those who don’t know, Adorama is a well established retailer of (mostly) camera gear. I was so impressed with the price that I ordered ten—shipping was free.
In the end, they only shipped me one (out of ten) and for some reason they charged me for shipping. Other than the traditional “your order has shipped” email I received no out of the ordinary communications from Adorama with regards to my order. This morning I returned to the SlickDeals thread to find I wasn’t the only one who was short shipped as well as mistakenly charged. The short shipping is acceptable. Adorama elected to make more people (probably) less happy. I’m not selfish, I understand. (Note: Some others might not be so kind.)
On the other hand, clearly Adorma knows about the shipping charge glitch, or should know. My (read: everyone’s) expectation is simple…if you want me to want you, don’t make me take time to ask for something that you (the brand) should be proactive to acknowledge and provide. Surely HBR is not suggesting that such things require innovation? Would anyone like to bet that this was not the first time Adorama encountered an exception in their process? Yet, there’s nothing in place to catch that exception and resolve it? Really?
To top is off, I did notice that Adorama had taken liberties to start including me in their email blasts. Again, unacceptable. How about a “You should have received your order by now. Is everything alright? Is there something we can help you with?…” email first? I mention this because my company did just that when I owned a small (seven figures in revenue) e-comm company. Every new customer got a follow up a day or two after they received their order. Note: That was something we did ten-plus years ago.
My point is, when business common sense is being passed off as innovative then we are all in a lot of trouble. Customers aren’t patting themselves on the back for clicking the Order Now button, or dialing a number on their smart phone. I think it’s time companies stop glorifying themselves about ideas and “innovations” that in 2012 should be as ubiquitous as air.
A couple weeks ago I attended TigerLaunch Startup Challenge 2012 at Princeton University, as hosted by The Princeton Entrepreneurship Club. The keynote speaker was Bill Taylor (Princeton ’81) the co-founder of the iconic Fast Company Magazine. Bill was also one of the judges in the competition. Thought the magic of YouTube, The Princeton Entrepreneurship Club has shared Bill’s keynote.
—Bill Taylor Keynote: TigerLaunch 2012 (Part 2/3)
—Bill Taylor Keynote: TigerLaunch 2012 (Part 3/3)
Based on my now cryptic notes here are the highlights I gleaned from Bill Taylor’s keynote address at TigerLaunch 2012.
- Be passionate. When someone say no just drive harder.
- Luck and timing helps.
- Business plans are written to reflect singles and doubles. The reality is there are strikeouts and home runs.
- The business plan is a good exercise but it never goes as planned.
- Be naive, be an outsider, it’s an advantage. Fresh eyes can be as important as experience and expertise.
- Hire for attitude. Train for skill.
- Entrepreneurs must learn to manage emotions and emotional connections.
- Be memorable.
- Being smart isn’t enough.
- Eat your own dog food.
- “The only thing worse than failing is success.”
- “Architecture of participation”
- When crowdsourcing be exact about what you want. Ask for participation everywhere you go.
Good stuff, yes? But wait there’s more…
In total there were eight presentations—Bill Taylor plus seven start-ups. The start-ups were: Collections, Waiter d’, QualTraxx, nat|Aural, DUMA, Pasand and BeneTag. Obviously, there was a lot of creative entrepreneurial energy in the room. However, there was one thing that was (pleasantly) absent. That was the use of the word innovation. There was plenty of talk about customers, business models, technology, growth, etc. but no one seemed to be over-focused on innovation for innovation’s sake. Realistic and refreshing.
Conclusion? Innovation as an ends is highly overrated—as it should be.
Congratulations to owner/CEO Greg Garnich on the launch of his new & improved iproperty GregsLandscaping.com.
Gregs Landscaping is a full-service company that believes that no client/project is too small or too big. Communication of all that is Gregs Landscaping was one of the key challenges of this project. The good news was Greg is also an avid photographer and has plenty of image content. Solving how to address the 20+ services took a bit more analysis. After a number of detailed discussions we all eventually agreed on displaying the services in a layout inspired by a “tag cloud”. The added innovation was that the tiers for each service could be service specific. This custom build functionality was essential to giving the GL brand the depth and breadth it needed.
Finally, the third key component of this iproperty was that every page is designed to function as a free-standing landing page for that particular service. When a potential customer does a search and then lands on an “inner page” for a particular service all the essential content will be there on that page. Even when they scroll to the bottom of the page the request a quote button and phone number is there waiting for them.
All this came together to form an experience that accurately reflects the Gregs Landscaping brand—honest, thorough and always easy to do business with.
Highlights of Phase 1
—Gregs Landscaping is built on the content management system (CMS) platform ExpressionEngine (EE). It is EE’s robust functionality and highly regarded flexibility that allowed AU to build a website that could “deliver the right content at the right time.”
—For example, content can be targeted to services/pages. That is, each FAQ, gallery image, header image, link and testimonial can all be assigned to the service(s)/page(s) it supports. Each is entered only once and is then assigned to many services/pages.
—Aside from being able to configure the tiers for each service in the service “tag cloud”, Gregs also has the ability to display content based on month. For example, if Gregs Landscaping wanted the copy on the home page for Sept to March to be different from the copy for April to August that is possible. Once the content setting were configured EE would handle the rest. In fact, even the service cloud can be configured to be seasonal. Images, testimonials, etc. all have a month by month setting for defining when a particular slice of content should be displayed.
—The URL structure and page markup is best described as “SEO friendly.” AU also consulted GL on SEO best practices (e.g., giving image files relevant names).
—To make Gregs’ site social media and “Facebook friendly” the markup includes a handful of key Open Graph tags.
—Alchemy United is proud to say that this project was 100% AU. From project management, business needs analysis and wireframes, to design, HTML markup and CSS, and Expression Engine development, we made all the magic happen.
Once again, congratulations Greg. With your images and this full-power ExpressionEngine website we’re certain you’ll be converting more prospects to happy Gregs Landscaping customers.
While it was highly uncharacteristic of me, I somehow managed to watch a good portion of the Grammys last night. To say that the young English soul singer Adele (full name: Adele Adkins) stole the show would be an understatement. Her six wins tied her with Beyoncé for the most wins by a woman in a single Grammy evening. Without out a doubt Adele’s album is outstanding. A one or even two hit wonder she is not.
However, the reality is it’s also highly unlikely that anyone familiar with American pop music would have predicted last night’s landslide months ago when the album “21″ was first released. Yet now it all makes perfect sense. Here’s what I think we can all learn from Adele:
—Content is still King or in this case Queen. She didn’t sell hype, endorse soda, manipulate Google SERPs, spew excessively on Twitter, wearing clothing made out of meat or stage a fly-by-night marriage. No, actually Adele did it the old fashion way. She and her team created something of true value. Mind you, I am sure she benefited from social networking. But it was quality work that fanned those organic flames. It wasn’t spin, hot air and spammy tactics.
—Quality is important, very important. The efforts of her team was put into creating something beautiful, crafted, exquisite and memorable. It was not a case of let’s half-ass it and then pull out every trick in the contemporary marketing playbook to try to pass off a stale doughnut as French pastry. In short, it’s more cost effective and smarter to get it right from the start than to try to fix a train wreck with smoke and mirrors.
—Be mindful of spot on execution. What they did they did damn well. Some would say, myself included, to the point of perfection. Would anyone call Adele an innovator? I don’t think so. Her style is timeless classic soul. And when she performs she is 100% committed. Adele sings purely from the heart. But then again, perhaps in the context of today such conviction and a willingness to go against the grain is innovative? The question is, how much are you faking it? And maybe paying greater attention to execution would fall under being innovative as well?
—Show some class. Show some restraint. Respect who you are. While the majority of the other performances were over the top, Adele nailed “Rolling in the Deep” with minimal excess. Mind you, I understand it’s pop music. There’s always a certain amount of frivolity. But perhaps your brand shouldn’t part-take in sugar-coated contests and such just to get people to Like your Facebook page? Perhaps there’s actually more value in being yourself (i.e., something of value) over the long term than trying to be something else in the short? Quality over quantity, right?
—Even in 2012 there is no I in team. Award after award Adele mentioned her producer and thanked her fans. She consistently tried to shift the spotlight way from herself and pull her producer/co-songwriter into the mix. In spite of being sold as a one-woman show, Adele was transparent and shared her moment with her team. Which leads me to my last point.
—Be humble. I don’t watch such award shows often but I’ve seen enough to know that Adele was humble and authentic. She didn’t come off cocky, like she deserved it. Instead she was restrained, natural and nearly embarrassed at all the attention. In other words, she acted like a true professional. That said, you got a sense that deep down she wasn’t surprised. Obviously, their goal was to do a high-quality work of art. They achieved that goal. I am certain she knew this. If she was surprised, it was that so many others had noticed. So, is your brand acting like a giddy one-hit wonder or when you stand in the end-zone do you look like you’ve been there before? That that’s where you belong?
Kudos to you and your team Adele. You’re a beacon of hope for those of us who still believe in quality.
“Services, Market Intelligence Are Best Buy’s Not-So-Secret Sauce” by Alan Wolf (TWICE.com, 7 November 2011).
Raise your hand if you think of Best Buy as a down & dirty in the details marketing/marketing intelligence company? What? No hands raised? That’s okay, I was in your camp too prior to this as well. There a couple things that caught my attention and my business imagination.
First, there’s Geek Squad. As I recall, Best Buy was the first (or at least one of the first) to roll out such a branded service. Mind you, I feel for the mom & pops it stepped on. But let’s face it, getting a PC or other consumer electronics fixed is like taking your car in for service—you just don’t know when you’re getting hoodwinked. Not only does Best Buy satisfy a need in the market with Geek Squad but it also uses that one-on-one customer contact as a key data collection point. Their commodity based retail is the razor. The after-mark service— differentiated and higher margin—is the razor blade. Who knew? Did you? Moi? I never drilled down on the thought that deep.
But here’s the kicker:
“Meanwhile, helping to discern market trends and consumer needs — often before shoppers are cognizant of them — is Best Buy’s customer insights unit (CIU), headed by former CIA intelligence officer Bill Hoffman. The operation uses surveys and focus groups, and monitors forums, social networks and other online commentary, to gauge customer satisfaction, understand brands, track the effectiveness of promotions, prepare for new launches, and develop insights and actionable strategies for the company’s various business units.”
Note: It’s not the use of surveys, focus groups, etc. that caught my eye. It’s the fact that the lead dog is former CIA. In other words, the value isn’t in collecting the data. It’s helpful but it’s relatively easy to do in this day and age. Who isn’t collecting something at this point? The value is in turning that data into useful information from which strategic business decision can be made. This end to end process takes three things: collecting the right data, parsing it and then analyzing it to make the right decisions.
Obviously Best Buy is pretty serious about all three, especially the deal breaker, step 3. You don’t call in the CIA just for kicks, right? By the way, I wouldn’t doubt it if Best Buy shares some of what it collects with its OEM partners. For a fee, of course. I guess you can add that to their list of razor blades as well.
Perhaps there are opportunities for you to sell more razor blades? Perhaps you are sitting on the data would lead you to making such an insight?
“Obsess About Your Customers, Not Competitors” by Lior Arussy (DestinationCRM.com, August 2011). I hate to say, “I told you so,” but I told you so. Just check the AU Success Realized page and you’ll see it in black & white, literally.
That said, it’s not rocket science—just stop for a moment and think about how you think. Do you differentiate one brand experience from the next? Not usually, right? Bad service is bad service and great service is great service. Keep in mind that there is always a brand on your tier (or lower) that is willing to raise the bar. If that brand isn’t you then you will forever be playing catch up. If Guests don’t care about silos they certainly don’t want to hear excuses either.
Again, think about it. You’ve done it yourself. You’ve taken a lower tier brand experience and applied it up a level or two. Your competition isn’t just to your left and right, it’s behind you too. When was the last time you looked behind you? As for inspiration…it’s right in front of you. It’s every time you leave the house.
There are two essential bits that I want to pull from Loir’s article:
“Naturally, those experiences shape his expectations. This person’s definition of a great experience is influenced largely by the vendors that serve him. Welcome to your new competitors—the best-of-the-world companies that are obsessed with customers, not competitors.”
“Don’t let industry thinking be an excuse for inferior customer experience. The ultimate competitive advantage will not be achieved by making product-to-product comparisons or catching up to the next vendor. Rather, a true edge will be achieved when customers are standing in line to purchase from you.
Indeed, customers will vote with their wallets. So it is time to immerse yourself in their world. Measure yourself against the best vendors in the world serving your customers. Ask yourself this: When my customer has been asked to spend $10,000, how has he been treated by the vendor?”
Thanks Lior. Thanks for further validating the Alchemy United state of mind.
“Come On, I Thought I Knew That!” by Benedict Carey (NY Times, 16 April 2011). I’ve been intrigued by plenty of things in my day but this article put me in a semi-permanent ponder. All the way back from the end of April as a matter of fact. What if…just keeps repeating.
I understand that the focus here is on how the brain learns. That is, the research mention is specific to learning and education. However, what if this is also insight in how the human mind learns and retain other things? Certainly there has to be some broader implications and relationships. The brain might be not be a one trick pony but even if has patterns and habits.
Specifically I’m thinking about web sites, web design and usability. The current rule of thumb is to make such interactions super easy and painfully obvious. But maybe too easy is a detriment? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been on a web site and thought, “Oh, I’m sure I’ll remember this.” A couple of hours later, that memory is long gone. Mind you, that hiccup isn’t exclusive to web sites. None the less, I’m just wanting to point out that maybe too “user friendly” is actually a bad thing. Heresy, yeah I know.
Read the article and let me know what you think. Moi? I’m thinking there’s even more truth to “No pain. No gain.”
For starter, I want to acknowledge that this is not “Client-friendly SEO Guidelines – Part 3″. Yes, I had promised that next. However, I decided to push it back a week and slide this one in instead. Call it agile planning, if you will.
As the story goes, I had lunch with a colleague earlier in the week. JK—not his/her real name—is a fairly hardcore SEO aficionado. JK’s motto is: Tune it. Tweak it. Tighten it. Repeat. JK is also fond of: Mo’ traffic. Mo’ traffic. Mo’ traffic.
We got past the usual formalities, as well as rejoicing over the USA Women’s soccer victory over Brazil and then shifted into talking shop. JK had just started with a new client/project a few weeks back. It was for an e-commerce outfit. I had seen the site and it appeared then that it was going to be quite a challenge. I was curious and asked how it was going.
JK’s quick and boastfully proud reply was:
“Great. Traffic is increasing. Alexa ranking is improving. We’re adding pages to farm in more traffic. And thus far the impact of Google’s Panda update seems to be minimal.”
I wasn’t surprised. JK does good work. We talk SEO all the time. But then again we both knew there are a handful of standard tricks to grab the low hanging fruit. Not that there is anything wrong with that. You’ll understand my positioning here in a moment.
I toasted JK’s accomplishments, paused and then queried, “Mind if I ask some Guest-centric and business fundamentals questions?” JK smiled and firmly nodded affirmative. Here are some of the things that were discussed over the rest of the meal. Mind you for some of these it might be too early to tell. That is, there’s not enough data yet. Also, admittedly not all are JK’s area and/or role. None the less, we needed to discuss something and JK’s project was this afternoon’s feature.
- Churn rate: Up? Down? No change? What are the top reasons for churn? Are there particular keywords, PCC campaigns, etc. that are more prone to churn?
- The marketing sweet spot: Is price the sole driver? Might emphasizing value be a better play? Would value attract a less churn-ful buyer?
- Conversions: Was increasing traffic also increasing sales? Was the average size of sale increasing? Why? Why not?
- Cross-selling and up-selling? Does influencing the buyer’s profile of purchases reduce churn and/or increase a Guest’s value over time?
- The Guest Experience: What was being done to improve the UI, UX, design, service, etc.?
- Building the brand: Does more traffic, more customers and more sales equate to establishing and building an actual brand?
- Guest expectations: Were they being addressed? Can you have a brand in 2011 and not address Guest expectations?
- SE Old: Is the nature of SEO changing? Are not social networks becoming the “search” tool of choice? Then that?
- Exit Strategy: The ultimate question is, is anyone else willing to pay to acquire this business as it is currently modeled? Is the strategy sustainable?
After numerous volleys the conclusion was simple. It is a classic case of what I’m going to call a Sisyphean marketing strategy. In other words, X amount of traffic is going to convert; Y number are going to churn out; in order to meet growth goals Z, there is a simple minded (if not one dimensional) objective to just keep increasing traffic. The fact that there are quite a few other vectors that all intertwine didn’t matter. The best practices of great brands’ seemed to be nowhere in sight. Or should I said, in site?
Truth be told, JK said the client was comfortable with the Sisyphean marketing strategy. Said formula was what established them and they were convinced the formula was the key to future growth. The fact that just about every other parameter on the pitch had changed in that time frame didn’t seem to be a concern. In terms of doing their best, yes within the narrow context they defined they seemed to be doing their best. While I certainly do appreciate simplicity and focus I would think that those in similar historical circumstances probably have other lessons to teach. JK just mumbled something about mo’ traffic, mo’ traffic, mo’ traffic. The cheque came, we ponied up our credit cards and went back to working.
But there seems to be an alt-moral to this story. Sometimes doing your best isn’t good enough—that is, eventually it can become less and less appropriate. Sometimes doing what’s right, what needs to be done is what’s in order. Granted, that can be difficult because it means letting go of a “sure thing.” I also means taking up a new cause, a new learning curve and that too can be a bit frightening. Or in JK’s case it might actually mean less billable hours.
Being focused is great. However, it’s not always as simple as running full speed ahead with blinders on in the same direction. This type of determination can be dangerous for a business. Hopefully you’re thinking of the same VW car commercial that I’m thinking of right now. If not, pop over to YouTube and watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-Vdb9yON-E.
“4 Ways to Capture Me & Make Me a Buyer Forever” by Steve Woodruff (MarketingProfs, 3 February 2011). This is one of those classic instances where after the first read it all sounds simple and logical. However, once you dip into the reader comments your perception changes a bit, and sometimes more. Initially Steve’s list seemed fairly benign, but then there was a comment that triggered me to contribute this:
Agreed Nick! However, I believe that focusing on motivation(s) should be #1, not #5. Trying to effectively attend to #1 – 4 isn’t really possible without have a damn good idea what the motivational target is, eh? And that comes from listening.
Also, in some regards #1 almost seem comical. Is this where we’re at, “extreme marketing”? Yes, there’s a lot of noise but does that dictate things must escalate to nuclear volume? (As seemed to be implied.) When in doubt, shout? Really?!? Correct me if I’m wrong, the object is quality attention, not more of it. Yes, that requires creativity (and maybe I’m parsing words too much) but “daring” (as well as the example) just sounds a bit sloppy to me. But again, such focus is all a function of determining motivation, which as noted, is missing from this list.
On top of that I’d like to add that, “…make me a buyer forever,” probably isn’t practical either. Noble yes, but more likely than not a goal too far. The reality is, there is going to be churn, as well as the uncommitted. As humans we naturally deviate (for convenience), experiment (out of boredom) or just don’t always do what we say we’d like to do (because we’re human). As a result, try as you might, a very low percentage of your customer base will buy 100% from you 100% of the time.
Get used to it. Embrace it! The fact is, you have you have no choice. Be smart and reformulate your goal to make more efficient use of your resource. Instead of going for all, consider coming down a notch and build relationships and ambassadors for life. Less really can be more. Whether The Guest is always buying from you isn’t as important as they are always telling others to buy from you. They can leave—and they will—the key is to connect in such a way that keeps them coming back again and again and again.
It should be noted that such a long term quality relationship might not result from a “$20 for $10″ first kiss. I’m not saying it can’t. I’m simply noting that getting attention from dropping your trousers is not the same thing as something that might be less “daring”. But that’s often the difference between a relationship and a one night stand.
“Facebook Fan Pages: 7 Dos and 7 Don’ts for effective Community Development” by Dimitris Zotos (WebSEOAnalytics.com, 24 January 2011). A couple days ago this article popped up in an RSS feed. I read it, left a somewhat skeptical comment, and moved on.
However, over the last couple days I realized that wasn’t enough. In my quest to rid the world of misinformation and myth as generated by “social media gurus” I felt a more thorough response was in order. Please note, I’m not trying to discredit Dimitris as much help others not be misled. With that said, let me run right down his list:
7 DOs for Facebook Community Development
1. Focus on the Content – Upload images, videos, texts and other media types around your brand, focusing on the interests of the community you want to build.
Yes of course. Focus on keeping it relevant and don’t over do it. Yes Virginia, you can tweet too much. If you’re a smaller one-man/one-woman show don’t mix personal with business. For example, if you the person wants to tweet then have a separate account for that. Business feeds that chatter about the weather, lunch, etc. are annoying.
2. Encourage Discussions – Try to engage users by asking and answering on various updates. People are more likely to interact to a human tone of voice instead of a cold corporate talking. Tip: Use @ before a user name to mention specific users –like twitter).
Yes, but again don’t over do it. For example, Mashable uses the old ask a question trick with each and every update on Facebook. After a while that gets tired and in turn counterproductive. If your public wants to chat they’ll chat. But don’t judge success by the amount of small talk you inspire. If people are following you to satisfy certain information needs and you’re doing that, they very well might not have anything to say. They’re busy too, remember
3. Setup Contests and games – Be creative! Motivate people to participate and add entertainment value to their online experience.
Again, another overused cliche so be careful. If you elect to try this out make sure you stay true to your brand. Make sure the contest/game is relevant to your brand and the expectations of your community. People might not embrace your brand to be entertained.
4. Reward your fans – Why should I hit the “Like” button? Do you offer only information for your company and products? A way to attract more “Like” thumbs is to offer something special for your fans. (Vouchers, special offers etc).
I strongly disagree. A Like is ubiquitous and vague as it is. If you want to trade Likes for some special offer that’s fine. Just understand that that changes the meaning of Like. If you start to get disLikes will that mean they don’t like you? Or is it someone you baited to Like you and now they’re just returning to where they should have been in the first place? Don’t believe the hype, a Like is a pretty meaningless measurement.
5. Promote your Fan Page – Add your Fan Page’s link in your website, blog, e-mail signatures newsletters and printed media.
Yes, of course. But also be mindful that Facebook might not be around forever. For example, look at MySpace. A lot people invested quite a bit of time and energy in their MySpace presence. Once that bottom dropped out that investment was gone. You should have an overall web presence with a hub (i.e., your own freestanding website) and social media should be the spokes that feed that hub. Not the other way around.
6. Create Custom Tabs – Create custom tabs with compelling images or videos. This could be a presentation of your company, a contest announcement or even an application.
See point #1 about content. This might be a great idea, or it might be a waste of time. Add value, not novelty.
7. Be prepared to respond to negative reviews – These days people are more likely to express their negative reviews and comments straight to the brand. You should always be prepared to respond a negative review and you should not just try to hide it by deleting the post. This requires a specific policy and the right.
The better recommendation would be, “Be prepared to listen.” The new paradigm is about conversation. Naturally, there are going to be things you’re not going to want to hear. Should this happen then learn from that interaction. Chances are good that if the person was truly dissatisfied they wouldn’t have said anything to you/your brand at all. They have something to say so listen. In most cases you’ll be happy you heard from them.
7 Don’ts for Facebook Community Development
1. Don’t invite all of your friends – You should not invite all of your friends but only the ones you believe that are interested in the page. It is really annoying to receive notifications and invitations from things you are not interested in or even dislike.
Actually, not really. First, in the context of some of the Dos it sounds awkward. Baiting with a contest is okay but inviting friends is not? Aside from that, the beauty of FB, etc. is that the receiver is empowered to decide. In other words, invite them and let them Like you, or not. Or maybe they’ll Like you today and then unLike you tomorrow. It doesn’t matter since an invite is far more authentic than baiting.
2. Don’t leave the spam posts – Don’t let spam posts and links within Fan Page’s wall. This kind of moderation is not against freedom but it ensures that users will respect the community members.
Translation: Use a service like Posting (www.Postling.com) to help monitor and manage your Internet presence.
3. Don’t post from the same source – Don’t keep on posting only your website’s feed, even if you have a news media website.
Do what you feel most comfortable with and let your fans be the judge. Ultimately, quality and relevance is more important than source.
4. Don’t spam your users – Don’t send promotional notifications every day. It is not effective but annoying.
Agree 100%, finally.
5. Don’t forget the Privacy issues – Don’t upload images or videos and don’t tag users without a given permission. Privacy is a sensitive part that you must be extra careful.
Yes, it’s a fine line. But again, people can police when they have been tagged and detag themselves. If the photo is of questionable value (read: it’s risqué) then maybe your brand shouldn’t be posting it to begin with.If you’re not sure how your community might react just tag a couple photos and see what kind of feedback (or not) you get. And of course, if you do decide to be proactive expect an occasional complaint.
6. Don’t create fake accounts – Don’t create fake accounts to represent or support brands. Your target in a social media campaign is not to collect tons of fans or friends but to build relationships.
Should you have faux identities to post on your own page? No, of course not. On the other hand, be aware that when you are the admin of a page you can not interact with that page as your own identity. For example, if a small biz owner sets up a page for his/her business then that owner’s comments on the Page will always appear to be coming from the Page (not the person). If that person/brand promotes “personal service” then the expectation might be to see interaction coming directly from the owner. If that is the case then a second faux account should be used to set up the Page. Note: Faux accounts are a violation for the FB terms of service so be careful. Maybe your “newborn” or “great great grandmother” needs a page. Understand?
7. Don’t be so serious – For the community managers: Don’t take yourself so serious. People always enjoy a cool attitude.
Disagree! What you should be is brand appropriate. Humor is similar to politics and sports, in that it can be easily misinterpreted. The goal is to be authentic, and don’t confuse “business casual” with bogus attempts at being “cool”. I certainly wouldn’t want my lawyer or my doctor to be focused on having a “cool attitude”. Would you?
Bottom line…Once you jump into the social networking and social media pool there are plenty of “experts” out there with snake oil to sell. Always be on the lookout for new ideas. But also be aware of the fact that there is plenty of noise as well, and don’t assume that just because you read it on the Internet that it’s true.
“How to Restart Innovation” by CIO Executive Council (CIO.com, 14 December 2011). Great collection of ideas! But let’s be honest, this is not rocket science. That said, let’s also dig a bit deeper and harvest some additional gold from between the lines.
Starting with the Brent Hoag (VP and CIO of Diversey), there’s the famous, “If you can measure it, you can manage it.” Diversey didn’t just say, “Let’s be innovative.” Geez, anyone can do that. The key here, they made a particular team responsible for that business need. While it’s true the whole organization should play a part in innovation, by making it someone’s responsibility it’s more likely to happen. Thinking about it is easy. Talk is cheap. The key is actually making an effort, and actually making someone accountable for it too.
Next comes Allison Redecki (Senior VP and CIO of GS1 US) and, “Tear down the silos!” Which by the way also applies to Hoag’s team. What Redecki has done is to have her people not re-actively serve their clients but to be proactive and walk in the clients’ shoes. The goal is to strive to be in a position to add value, not just regurgitate. In some ways the requests for new ideas is actually a by-product. The by-product of IT having a better understanding of what the business is doing and what it’s trying to accomplish. Without that understanding there would be no new ideas to be offered. That said, in asking for ideas (and presumably rewarding them) IT is forced to become closer immersed in their clients’ world. Silos down. Everybody wins.
And finally there’s Mark Carbrey (CIO of Cross Country Automotive Services) and their focus on The Guest Experience. His team is constantly evaluating and re-evaluating. In addition, using volunteers for such efforts not only keeps everyone engaged beyond their focus (read: it keeps them looking beyond the silos) but it also excites them. Everyone across his team is continuously a part of something new.Funny how participation gets people to well…um…participate.
The bottom line…It’s alarming how many organizations put their employees in cubicles, ask them to focus a fixed target, measure them on that, and then those same organizations are shocked when, “Think outside the box,” doesn’t produce significant innovation. If you want your team to use The Force, then you have to also give them the opportunities and inspiration to feel The Force too. Or as Chevy Chase said in Caddyshack, “Be the ball Danny.”
“Your Club Experience Is Your Marketing” by Denise Lee Yohn (ClubIndustry.com, 4 November 2010). This is yet another solid article that falls under, “it doesn’t just apply to gyms/clubs.” Much of Denise’s philosophy is similar to my own. That said, there are a handful of things I’d like to tight up a bit.
“That means the key to continued robust sales is less about attracting new members and more about retaining the ones you have.”
— Yes and no. First, the problem I typically have with the club industry’s view of retention is that it’s rarely seen as a marketing issue. That is, it’s rarely addressed that maybe you attracted the wrong customer in the first place. Some people are going to leave. Maybe it’s best that you let them go as quickly and as quietly as possible? Else, your brand could become the victim of online “bad mouthing”.
Second, there’s no reason to believe there aren’t new customers available. Sure, you might have to be more creative about attracting them and smarter about motivating them to buy, but they are there. If you ignore them now, that could come back to haunt you later. Don’t give up on attracting the new. You don’t want that muscle to go soft. (Pun intended.)
“Customers also are becoming more knowledgeable and discriminating. They’re swayed less by savvy salespeople and cool promotions, and their brand preferences are formed more by what they experience when they do business with your company. People also rely on the actual experiences of others…
In this environment, traditional sales and marketing tactics are becoming less important—and your club experience is emerging as your most powerful marketing tool.”
— The first bit is (obviously) very true. Stop whining and deal with. Someone said to me last week, “No one steals your clients. You lose them yourself when you don’t do your job to a level that matches their expectations.” True, very true.
As for the second bit, be wise and put heavy emphasis on “becoming less important”. That said, the traditional channels can still be effective. They are after all just channels. However, how you used them (read: the messages you send out) should be under review at any give moment. If you’re in set it & forget it mode then please don’t expect dynamic results. We no longer live in a set it & forget it world.
And finally, Denise’s list of action ideas is good but I believe she missed a key one. That is, speak/interact with your customers (and make a habit of it). Find out where they’re at. See how *they* define “experience”.
No matter how hard they might try, the brand is extremely biased and therefore should not make decision without consulting with The Guests. My point being, what the brand emphasizes as key to the “experience” might not be relevant to The Guests. A brand’s message(s) will only be as effective as those engagements actually connect to real Guest motivators. A point of differentiation is meaningless if The Guest doesn’t care about that point.
In short, look before you leap because The Guest defines the experience, not the brand. Assume otherwise at your own peril.
Quite often business life is not much different than personal life—although it should be. When off the clock, cause & effect applied incorrectly is called superstition, myth, etc. Yet the same misdirected correlations between 9.00a and 5.00p is called a project, or worse still insight. Same use of illusion but a different belief in its legitimacy.
Let’s discuss an example. Over the last couple weeks I’ve been in two and a half conversations centered around e-commerce. Each conversation naturally touched upon shopping cart abandonment. Before I continue I want to state that I agree that shopping cart abandonment is an area online retail outfits should study and certainly be aware of. That said, some seem to pursue it like the holy grail. Unfortunately, in many cases obsessing on the myth means something else is probably not being addressed.
- Specifically, the checkout process is not rocket science. If the overall process is that complex then keep rehashing it until it’s concise. Good enough isn’t good enough. Yet somehow we all continue to wade through crummy checkouts.
- The truth is, regardless of venue/medium, people don’t buy everything they pick up. I believe they call it window shopping. Online it’s probably even worse. There’s no getting dressed and driving across town. It’s just a matter of clicks.
- The truth is, people will have to leave a site sooner later. Sure, if there’s a problem on a particular page it should be fixed. But staying indefinitely is not going to happen.
- Focusing on abandonment is only half the picture. What about all those who didn’t add anything at all? Granted, I’m more casual about my commitment to e-comm but in all my reading and meeting no one seems to discuss such a measurement.
- What if marketing is driving in leads with the wrong expectations? For example, “free shipping” is not free if there’s a handling charge. While the difference might be correct on a technical level, to most guests it probably qualifies as sticker shock or bait & switch. Yet there are sites that advertise “free” shipping. It’s certainly possible the targeting and/or message is wrong.
- What if the site just kinda sucks? (Yes, I purposely used kinda.) That is, once the visitor stays a while reality sets in. They don’t like the look. The don’t like the feel. The might not even like the product. Doubt (aka the sales killer) arises and the sale is lost. Let’s face it, abandonment is a function of commitment and some sites just aren’t worth committing to.
The truth (as opposed to the superstition) is that in the 2.5 cases mentioned The Guest Experience of each site is “loose”. The sites do not qualify as awful but they are not tight in a 2010 sense either. If a guest was determined or already comfortable with the brand/site then each are sufficient. One the other hand, it terms of an experience that might inspire someone to part with their money, all three fall under the average column.
Guests want an experience. They want a story. For many, buying online is still a special event. By that I mean when someone asks, “Where did you get that?”, they want to respond proudly and with something meaningful. Simply throwing some goods online might have worked 5 or 10 years ago. It’s not where expectations are today.
Believe what you want to believe. That is your right. However, if that belief does not bring about the necessary change (read: results) then it’s probably time to admit you’ve been on the short end of a superstition and/or a myth. Not to worry, the solution is to stop and look at the details of the challenge objectively. Don’t get sucked into the accepted and standard convention just because it’s convenient to do so. There are plenty of people and websites willing to sell superstition and myth (because it was what was sold to them).
“15 Small Business Lessons from Richard Branson” as reported by Ann Handley (American Express’ OpenForum.com, 23 September 2010). In a word, brilliant. So much so that nothing needs to be added.
“Use the 80-20 Rule to Increase Your Website’s Effectiveness” by Oleg Mokhov (SixRevisions.com, 2 September 2010). While we apply the rule somewhat differently, Oleg and I are certainly in agreement. It’s the ultimate rule to follow because it can be applied to everything, not just web sites.
Three other good rules that all play well together are:
— Divide and conquer.
— You can’t be everything to all people all the time.
— How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
For example, if your business is about a particular set of core services, focus on communicating those 80% of the time. when sending an email blast target it such that it connects with the interests and expectations of 80% of your list. If the web site is about selling those services then put 80% of your time and effort into defining those pages. That’s not to say shouldn’t trust your gut and igore your hunches. Just be fully aware that you are doing so when you do.
If you get distracted by the 20% you will ultimately only dilute the 80% that really matters. Stay focused! As a general rule, as you are fine tuning X, shoot to get it 80% r complete and correct. When that dust settles, go back to the remaining 20% and attack 80% of that. And so on, and so one. As a result of focusing 100% on only 80% you will be more effective. In addition, you and your team will have more senses of accomplishment more often. Good motivators are always a good thing.
The bottom line is that in all likelihood you will build a customer base such that 20% yields 80% of your business. 80% of your team will be happy 80% of the time, and so on. Now if only life were so easy.