Archive for category Marketing
So I won’t repost the entire entry I wrote earlier today over at the OpenCal blog, but I do think it is worth a read – anyway, I wrote about how to make a Groupon campaign more successful based on some tips I have heard from businesses that have used it and from researching the web. Like a lot of things, the basic message of the post is to go in to these things with your eyes open. You might have heard how Groupon will revolutionize the way you gain customers, you may have heard it can almost destroy your business – what really matters are the details, and getting the small things right, because if you do that, Groupon is one of many, many marketing tools that you can wield successfully in order to gain and keep new loyal customers.
Want to know all the secrets? Go read the post over there.
Groupon does a couple of remarkable things.
First off, Groupon adds e-commerce to small businesses that can’t do so. You don’t need to install anything (though online booking can help you deal with the onslaught of new business), you don’t need to purchase an https cetificate, you don’t need to sign up for a merchant paypal account. So, that’s actually a pretty huge deal for a lot of businesses.
But this is what it really does: it sells advertising. It signs up however many pairs of eyeballs, probably at least 10,000 in a new city, and then it gives one (!) business all those eyeballs for one day. As a business owner, this is great. I mean, not only do you get to sell stuff online (if you didn’t already), but it’s also as if you’ve had a giant spotlight turned onto your business. All kinds of people that have never heard of you are suddenly lining up to buy your product at a deep discount.
But of course, the question a lot of people are asking is, what are return visitors like? Are you selling your product at 25% of the normal price (you generally need to discount your service at half it’s normal cost, and then Groupon takes half of what is left) for one-off sales or are you creating any loyalty? I would think you’re getting an audition which could turn into repeat visits, but in reality, I think Groupon is the only one getting any real loyalty out of this deal.
1. Getting customers to try a product that hasn’t launched yet
is harder than you think is exactly as hard as it sounds.
2. Create value now in order to reap rewards later.
This one is obvious, and should have been even more obvious to someone who considers himself a pretty good gardener, and yet because it feels like a race (as you approach the launch date) you always expect results to come in all the time. But like the seeds you set below the surface, sometimes it seems like nothing is happening at all. If you ignore the seeds you may never see the shoots. Likewise, if you stop creating value (because you haven’t seen any results), you will probably never see any positive results.
Similar to what I’ve learned using social media, there is no easy way to build a following. It is (in some ways) hard work and success is hard won. You only get to where you’re going by having faith that what you’re doing is the right thing to build an audience.
3. Make goals every day.
How do you stay productive? Do you have a system?
4. Create traditions.
What are your traditions?
5. Celebrate your wins, no matter how small.
These keep you going.
A big shout out to Darryl Ohrt of Brand Flakes for Breakfast fame and Bill Green of Make the Logo Bigger – I believe you both put me in touch with the awesome stock photos I have been digging via Awkward Stock Photos.
Most of the content for this post comes from a presentation I gave at a job interview which I did not get; so take that for what it’s worth. For the most part the presentation was well received, however I probably could have used a bit more polish. The idea itself came (not surprisingly) from the good people at IDEO. Or at least, from their words and deeds.
The T-shaped individual.The phrase by itself is quite meaningless. You need to dig a bit and take it apart in order to understand what it means. As a T might look like a person, you have to imagine the height of the T indicates the depth of expertise you have in a given field (generally your specialty.) The cross on top indicates the breadth of knowledge or set of skills you have across disciplines.
Not long ago (at least to my recollection) all we heard about was how the people who were the most specialized would get the best jobs. This terrified me. I abhor specialization. I like to know a lot about a few things, and a little about everything. That’s just the way my ADD-addled brain works. So you can imagine my happiness as I read about how IDEO (the company I clearly idealize) looks for T-shapedness when hiring. They do so because they argue that this leads to better team formation; individuals with varied backgrounds are able to communicate more easily and with more empathy (because they understand each other’s backgrounds somewhat more – of course, empathy itself is something that is looked upon favorably at IDEO when hiring). Instead of occupying silos of expertise, teams are cross-functional – you get recombination and variation (basically like sex with ideas) and in general, better ideas and results.
Of course it’s great. But the metaphor is incomplete. I went on to read about the importance of I shaped individuals by Bill Buxton, who, while not actually from IDEO himself, is apparently good friends with Bill Moggridge, the co-founder of IDEO. The difference here is that the bottom of the I is a grounding in practical experience. So, you have breadth of knowledge, deep expertise in one domain, and to cap that off, a lot of experience relevant to that domain.
Giving T-shaped people their feet.For my purposes, the presentation had to do with getting liberal arts majors interesting co-op positions, so I argued that while the liberal arts majors are quintessentially T-shaped individuals (pretty much the only reason I have a History degree is because I also got to study Astronomy, Biology, Physics, Spanish, Anthropology, Geography, etc etc) and therefore able to help connect individual silos within organizations, they are in need of their feet (ie. the practical experience that will help them achieve their goals in whatever it is they do in life). Hiring a liberal arts major is akin to giving them their feet. And with these feet they will march off into the world, secure in the knowledge that while they are alumni of a major educational institution, they are also alumni of the first order at your organization, because that is where they brought their heads out of the clouds and got their feet muddy in the practical world of experience.
What does it mean?*It means it’s a great time to be alive if you believe in curiosity, creativity, and caring about the work that you do. I used to believe in the world my parents grew up in – the one where you made the decision about what you would do with your life before you were 25, were most likely married, and probably had kids. And that world made me feel very out of place. This is what I’ve known I would be since I was 16: a doctor, a professor, a business guy of some type, a writer, a professional traveler/travel writer, a teacher, back to some type of business guy, and currently a marketing dude. Will that last? I doubt it. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of other hats I want to seriously try on before I die, and I hope that the experiences and skills I’ve picked up a long the way will help tell the story of a very empathic T-shaped individual who is trying to make the world a better place, one day at a time.
*Because I can’t help but try and be funny in the middle of being serious, some of you will catch the reference to the Complete Double Rainbow Guy. If you don’t, go to youtube, and google that immediately.
Related links/further reading:
My search for a new position is, happily, over. I’m very excited to be working at a startup called OpenCal as the Director of Marketing and Sales. I’ll be working on a daily basis with the founders (who have a great eye for design) in an apartment-turned-office. OpenCal is an online booking solution for service-based businesses. From what I’ve seen of it so far, it’s super slick and will be a great addition to many businesses such as massage therapy clinics and beauty salons. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll be writing more about it in the future.
It’s all very exciting. We’re about (fingers crossed) 6 weeks away from launch at which point I will hopefully have helped to set us up for success. For now it’s all about getting beta customers trying out the product and gathering their feedback to make it even better. More than that it’s about getting people talking about it on and offline. I’ve never been in a position to help take a product from zero users to wherever we get, but it’s an exciting time for me. Hopefully Steve Blank’s The Four Steps to the Epiphanydoesn’t fail me. Very very happy I had the foresight to take a class called The Customer Development Process back in the MBA (thanks Iain!)
Update: in the meantime, if you’re interested in the product, please take a sneak peak and sign up for more information!
I learned a lot of different things during the MBA. All of it was interesting and worthwhile and most of it I remember quite well. But what is interesting to me is what REALLY sticks almost two years out. I should say at this point that the idea of this post came from a colleague of mine, Danny Starr, who recently wrote a review of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Dan and Chip Heath. I agree with him that the book is excellent and I continue to use the SUCCESs checklist he speaks of – in any case, it is worth going over to Danny’s blog as he illustrates quite well how to apply some of the book’s advice in a very concrete way in a real-life example.
So, like I was saying, what is interesting is what REALLY sticks over the life of a 15 month program such as the MBA. I began the program in September 2007 and we finished in December 2008 (officially we graduated in May 2009). Probably there are a few life-changing experiences or moments of learning that I could point to, but I chose this one because it still blows me away whenever I think about it. This piece of advice came to me through an hour-long guest lecture in our Business Strategy class by Amos Michelson, CEO of Creo Inc. (we were also lucky enough to have Dan Gelbart, also of Creo fame, speak to us in that class). He spoke to us about how he came to be involved with Creo, how they operated, what they accomplished, and of course how they ended up selling the company to Kodak for approximately $1 billion USD (when he came to Creo in 1991, it was worth about $3 million). Amos has since moved on to some projects in health care and clean tech – most notably a company called Kardium.
Our hour with Amos passes very quickly. He is a great speaker and he peppered his tale with witty, memorable anecdotes. I still remember quite a bit of his lecture. It was amazing. But one concrete piece of advice he gave us I will take to my grave, so beautiful, simple and valuable it was. I will attempt to paraphrase it now, because it really is worth sharing.
However you measure your employees is up to you. But it is easier to think about people on a scale of 1-10, 1 being a disaster and 10 being a superstar you cannot live without out (in many ways these are the Linchpins that Seth Godin based his most recent book on helping you to become). Obviously, you want to stay away from employees or candidates that would be on the bottom of the scale. If you are hiring 5s and below you have deeper problems. But it is difficult to distinguish between certain levels of output and achievement. For example, 5s can look like 6s, 6s can look like 7s, 7s like 8s, and so on and so forth. However, 6s are easily distinguishable from 9s, 7s from 10s, and so on. Now, if you have a company of 9s and 10s, it almost doesn’t matter what you do, you will have great success. You can probably survive and do well with a few 8s, but only if the rest of the team are all 9s and 10s. If you make a mistake and hire some 5s, 6s or 7s – that’s no problem. They are easy enough to identify and you can eventually get rid of them.
Now, you probably would think that as long as you have 7.5s and up you are going to be fine. But I am here to tell you that the 7s and 8s are what will kill you as a company. Particularly those pesky 8s. These are the people who work only hard enough to sometimes appear to be 9s or maybe even 10s, but they are not – they are only masquerading as high achievers. You will see them do well and you will think ‘let’s keep them on a little longer. They might work out still’. But I am here to tell you that they are still 7s and 8s and they will mire you in mediocrity, and mediocrity will never get you anywhere in business. Of course, firing and hiring are costly endeavours – but mediocre employees will drain you forever. So, fire your 7s and 8s. Don’t wait too long to see if they are really 9s and 10s.
It was probably more eloquent than that, and a lot funnier, but that is the single piece of knowledge from the MBA that I will always remember. Fire your 7s and 8s. They will sink you. It really does run so counter to what we think of normally as what constitutes a good employee. You might think a good employee is one who keeps his head down, gets his work done and doesn’t cause any problems. But by Amos’ definition, this person is almost certainly a 7 or 8. He is not thinking about the big picture, he is thinking about his payday and what he is doing on the weekend. Sure, he’s better than a 6, but if you are in the business of hiring 6s you will not be in business for long and you will not create things of real and lasting value.
The anecdote was sticky because, whether he meant to or not, Amos pretty much nailed the SUCCESs checklist from Made to Stick. The story and the wisdom it implied was Simple. The punchline was Unexpected – who would have thought that a bunch of 8s might sink your company? The advice was Concrete – fire your 8s. It was Credible – Amos had been CEO when Creo was sold for $1 billion USD and he helped revolutionize an industry along the way. His anecdote was Emotional – he was very passionate about his beliefs and he delivered the advice emotionally, as if your entire future depended on you understanding what he was saying. And last, the anecdote told a Story. Fill up a room of people all pulling in the same direction and you will go somewhere. Fill it up with superstars, and you will create real, lasting value. Fill it up with 8s and you will put-put along eternally.
I’m going to make this a regular feature of the blog (at least that’s the plan) – so I’m going to be kind of making up the rules of the reviews as I go along. I’m going to try to keep them to 100 words or less but I haven’t figured out how I’ll rate them yet. If you’ve read any of them, or have any specific questions, let me know.
Full disclosure: I keep an ‘I’m reading’ list on my profile on LinkedIn and will be using the reviews there as the basis for my reviews here. If I could just import them here, I would, but there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to embed them right now. Also, by doing it this way it forces me to think about what has changed since I wrote that review, and the update will hopefully make the review more accurate.
The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization
by Thomas Kelley, Jonathan Littman
I’m only through the first two parts of ten, but I can say already that if you’re interested in making a design-focused organization, or even just improving your marketing through empathy and understanding your customer, you’re going to want to have this book on hand. Update: I’ve kind of stalled on this one, though it isn’t because I don’t like it – I just got caught up in a few other books at the same time. While this book is not exactly how-to, it has a lot of great ideas and case studies to make things happen and provide inspiration.
13 Things that Don’t Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time
by Michael Brooks
This book is blowing my mind. There are so many interesting scientific anomalies that currently exist – from death as an aberration to the problem (or not) with dark matter – this book is definitely for the scientifically curious. Update: (I wrote the previous part a few weeks ago) I actually just finished this book last night. The last few chapters were not as good as the first few, but it’s hard to say if that was due to the mysteries being less interesting or me getting a bit tired of them. Maybe 11 things that don’t make sense would have been better.
Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative
by Edward R. Tufte
So far this is simply an amazing book about the role of design in great communication. When you read the part about the Challenger Disaster you will learn about statistics, understanding data, and communicating risks properly. Edward Tufte is a true gem. Update: we both hate PowerPoint. That is all.
Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days
by Jessica Livingston
This book is great for anyone interested in entrepreneurship in general or specifically tech start-ups. It is really making me want to get something rolling on my own, which is both distracting and very exciting. I highly recommend this book. Update: I still highly recommend this book. I haven’t picked it up in the six months since I read it, but I do still plan on using one of the interviews as a basis for a one hour lesson in my entrepreneurship class at BrainBoost.
Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56
by Rafe Esquith
I’m about to be teaching a course again and this book is giving me a nice grounding in the non-technical aspects of teaching that I want to accomplish, or re-accomplish, as it were. Very entertaining and enlightening. Update: I am teaching that class now, as above, and this book was inspiring, but perhaps it’s more for someone who hasn’t done a lot of teaching. Then it will really get you excited to teach.
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness
by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein
I’m reading this book because I’m a bit of a junkie when it comes to books about the brain, how it works, and how we can improve outcomes for people in general. If we can improve the lives of others by changing design, why shouldn’t we? Let the default be a great option. Update: Started reading this again recently. It’s still pretty awesome, and definitely a great place to start if you’re fairly new to the subject.
Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
by Jim Collins, Jerry I. Porras
A great book if you ever need to create a BHAG for a company you know little about and then give a presentation to its CEO less than 48 hours later. The Sauder MBA Capstone program – good times! Update: I haven’t looked at this one for quite a while now. It’s not for everyone, but it is particularly useful if you own/run/work for a small business and you want to set a course for the future.
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits
by C.K. Prahalad
A great book that features tonnes of actual pragmatic advice and lessons learned from companies opening up the bottom of the pyramid. Perfect for anyone interested in making the world a better place through business. Update: This book makes you want to move away and go help the less fortunate all over the world. That feeling passes – however, that is probably a good thing, as there is always a lot of good you can do in your own backyard – like volunteer in Vancouver.
Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide
by John Jantsch
Another book I’m only part way through, but this one has had some real gems in it. For example, mapping your customers out to see any interesting relationships between them. What if half your customers all came from the same neighbourhood? What does that tell you? Maybe you have an evangelist there, or maybe seeding a new neighbourhood with customers would be a good idea as perhaps it’s just friends talking to friends? You never know what you will learn from this exercise – and this is just one among many. Update: See, this is why I force myself to do this – why haven’t I picked this one up in a few weeks? I need to finish this one right away.
The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures
by Dan Roam
Clearly I’m reading way too many books at the moment, but this is also a keeper. It helps show my current theme/interest, which is learning to communicate more effectively and efficiently through a number of different mediums. A lot of what I have found in here is fairly intuitive, however, like many things in life, forcing yourself to sit down with the intuitive can sometimes be quite enlightening. Update: I’m guilty here – I’m totally skimming the exercises and that is making the whole experience a lot less useful. I will update this one again in the next set of reviews assuming I go back and do these drawing exercises. Mea culpa.
One of my favorite Tufte posters – click for full-size: