Welcome back.

Have you thought about subscribing? It's free.

The problem with coming attractions

“Knock, knock…”

That’s not a coming attraction. It’s an invitation. An opening. A bit of tension in terms of closure.

A coming attraction, on the other hand, gives it all away. It says, “here’s a bit of what we’ve got, and the rest of it is just like this, but almost as loud and almost as shiny.”

In the short run, coming attractions work faster. They get you a certain kind of audience and they lead to less disappointment.

But the alternative, the hard work of creating tension and then delivering on it–that’s where our best path lies. It requires trust, not proof, and the patience to find an audience that cares enough to work with you to get to where they’d like to go.

If someone insists on experiencing your experience before you give them the experience, it’s really unlikely you’re going to be able to delight them.

Community rank

You’re probably familiar with class rank. Among all the kids in this high school, compared to everyone else’s GPA, where do you stand?

And you’ve heard about sports rank, #1 in the world at tennis or golf or chess.

But somehow, we don’t bother with community rank.

Of all the contributions that have been made to this community, all the selfless acts, events organized, people connected–where do you stand?

Maybe we don’t have to measure it. But it might be nice if we acted as if we did.

All other things being equal (simple contribution analysis for pricing)

If you make a product that costs $5 to produce and package, how much should you charge for it?

I don’t know.

But there’s a simple bit of arithmetic you can do to understand sensitivity in pricing.

Should you charge $7 or $9?

Well, if you charge $7, you make $2 a unit.

If you charge $9, you make $4 a unit, or twice as much.

Which means, all other things being equal, you’ll need to sell twice as many at $7 as you’ll need to sell at $9.

It doesn’t feel that way, but it’s true. 100 sold at $9 is more profitable than 180 sold at $7. And to take it a step further, you’ll need to sell 800 at $5.50 to make as much as you would have made at $9. Eight times as many.

No one knows what your demand curve is going to be like, no one is sure what impact your pricing will have on all the other items you sell.

But be honest with yourself about contribution.

Price is a story, it’s a story we tell ourselves and others about what we have to offer. But price is also the path to being able to stay in business.


[Unrelated helpful tip: A significant bug exists in Word, one that just cost me two hours. If someone sends you a Word file as an attachment in Gmail and then you drag that to Word to start editing it (without formally downloading it first), Word will let you work on it, save it, work on it some more, close it–and then your work is gone forever. Don’t do that.]

Update! Thanks to Justin, Alan, Matt, Luis and other loyal and talented readers, I’ve put together a method that got the file back. My deep searching yesterday didn’t find it, so here it is for the next shmo who gets stuck:

  1. Repeat the process that opened in the file in the first place. In my case, drag it from Gmail to the Word icon in the dock on my Mac. The original opens.
  2. Hit ‘save as’.
  3. You’ll see the usual save window, and you can hit the name of the folder to see the location of the hidden file. In my case, the letter “T
  4. Then, you’ll need to be able to see the invisible files on your Mac. In my case, the easiest thing was to go to Terminal and turn that on.
  5. And then, folder by folder, I found my way to the magical “T” folder and there it was, gloating at me, just waiting to be re-opened and saved properly.

Thanks, team!

The exaggeration of small differences without a difference

“What should we do with all the left-handed people?”

“There are far too many people in this organization who wear glasses. It’s hurting our ability to compete.”

Here’s a simple trick: Every time you consider identifying a group to exclude, overlook or fear, every time you consider naming your football team after an ethnic or cultural group, or wonder about how a group makes you feel…

Substitute a label or perhaps a slur that’s been used against a group you belong to instead.

It sounds ridiculous when you say that out loud, doesn’t it?

The two “Harvard problems”

In many fields, there’s a big name. The exclusive slot. The top ranking or badge. This is being a top 10 podcast, or on a certain bestseller list or working at a specific sort of company…

The first Harvard problem is erroneously believing that you deserve it. This is the kid who has neither the attitude nor the skills to thrive at a famous private college. But the culture he’s surrounded with will view anything else as a failure, and so he’ll go into debt and contort himself to get the label, wasting years of his life, tons of money and most of all, his spirit.

The second Harvard problem is not believing that you deserve it. This is the young woman I met a year ago who had a fantastic work ethic and excellent grades but came from a community where the local community college was seen as a stretch, and she didn’t believe she could or should abandon those around her.

Here’s a simple clue that you might have a Harvard problem: If the label you’re seeking comes instantly to mind, or is prompted by those around you, it may be that we haven’t thought hard enough about which label we want.

The famous outcome isn’t often the right one, and often, neither is the common outcome. Being clear about where we’re going and why is a useful place to start.

Difficult decisions

These are the decisions that are forced on us, the ones that feel unfair, the ones where there are no seemingly good outcomes.

How to proceed?

  1. Acknowledge that it sucks. That you’d rather not be in this situation. That it’s not what you hoped for. You can return to this step as often as you like, but don’t permit it to have anything to do with the other steps in the process.
  2. Consider the sunk costs. The things you did to get to this point, the hard work and investments you made to have what you had until recently. Now, ignore them. They’re sunk. They have no connection to the decision you need to make.
  3. Outline your options. None of them are as happy as you’d hope. None are perfect. All involve a measure of discomfort. That’s okay, because that’s what’s on offer. Write them out.
  4. Now, consider each option based on the future, not the past. Ignoring the sunk costs, ignoring what you deserve, which of these options offers you the happiest series of future days, weeks and months? Choose that one. Don’t look back. Go.

Alcohol vs. cannabis marketing

[There’s a lesson here for all marketers—legacy brands have clouded our understanding of what marketing can do today…]

US prohibition ended in 1933. After that, there was a gold rush that led to the creation of dozens of billion dollar brands.

80 years later, the prohibition against pot is ending in various places throughout North America and then, probably, worldwide.

The question some professional marketers are asking is: Will there be worldwide profitable brands for pot that are similar to Bacardi, Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff for alcohol?

Both industries are regulated. Both have products that are sold in specialty stores. Both use non-proprietary manufacturing techniques.

Here’s the big difference:

When alcohol marketing became legal, it coincided with the glory days of magazines, radio and then TV. The mass marketing phenomenon happened at exactly the same time as these brands were being rolled out—and along with cigarettes, alcohol brands were major advertisers, particularly in magazines (hard liquor) and TV (beer). The ads supported the media in a fundamental way (and vice versa–Rick’s Cafe anyone?).

But when cannabis marketing arrives, it’s the internet that’s dominant. And the internet isn’t a mass medium.

It seems like one. It’s used by billions of people.

But it’s a micro medium. A direct marketing medium. There are 3 billion people online, but they’re busy looking at 3,000,000 web pages (that’s only a thousand a page).

The other difference is that there’s a thousand-year tradition of the pub and the bar. And those facilities offer status games, word of mouth and significant margins that created another marketing engine for alcohol that won’t exist for cannabis.

Sure, it’s possible that the huge demand and profit margins will fund a winner-take-all advertising movement for pot. But it’s more likely to be more like local espresso or high-end chocolate or whisky (word of mouth) and less like vodka.

Price and satisfaction

You don’t need to read many reviews to realize that the correlation between price and satisfaction isn’t what you might have guessed.

It’s super rare for someone to write, “5 stars. The product wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t exactly what I needed, but it was really cheap, so, good job!”

In fact, things that are free (streaming music or movies, blog posts, speeches, etc.) almost never get bonus happiness because they had the lowest possible price.

And almost as rare is the review that says, “This is terrific, it was magical and solved all my problems, but I’m only giving it three stars because it had a high price.”

If you want to create satisfaction, the two elements are:

Make useful promises

Keep them

Price is unrelated, except for one thing: Charge enough that you can afford to actually keep your promise. The thrill of a low price disappears quickly, but the pain of a broken promise lasts a very long time.

“Summer’s almost over”

When I was a kid, my mom would start saying that in mid-July.

I think she meant well. Summer is a great time to stand back, to chill out, to spend an entire day or a week producing little or nothing and simply breathe.

But she was reminding us that regardless of our internal clock, the real world keeps moving forward, and that maybe this little window of time, one that we’ll never see again, could be a great time to make a contribution, find a connection and explore what might be possible. The ability to create is a rare privilege, and it’s not to be ignored.

If you can make a ruckus, make a ruckus.


Here at HQ, Kelli and Marie, Sam and our coaches are finishing up two concurrent sessions of the altMBA today. The fifth session of The Marketing Seminar just passed its commencement ceremony, and Alex Peck and I sent the final surprises to the printer for a new book. Because summer’s almost over.

Mark your calendars:

A new seminar, The Bootstrapper’s Workshop, begins on September 5. You can find the early details on our site.

The next session of The Marketing Seminar happens in January.

And the last altMBA of 2018 is accepting applications for another few weeks.

Reality-based reality

It’s ever easier to weave our own reality, to find a bubble and to reinforce what we believe with what we hear. We can invent our own rules, create our own theories, fabricate our own ‘facts’.

It turns out, though, that when your reality is based on actual reality, it’s a lot more stable and resilient, because you don’t have to be so vigilant about what you’re going to filter out.

This site uses cookies.

Learn more