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Welcome, Malcolm

My guess is that many of my readers will be delighted to discover gladwell.com.

The Easy Button

Greg Ness has a nice riff on Staples easy button.

I think I’d alter it to be the "certain" button. Lots of people are willing to work hard. Not as many are willing to take intellectual or project risk. As a result, they make boring stuff that’s quite likely to fail.

If you could embark on a marketing campaign that was certain to work, would it matter how hard it was to do or how much it would cost? Not likely. People hesitate because they’re just not sure.

“Yeah, but my other son is a stableboy…”

Two visions of marketing crossed my desk today.

Greg Ludvik writes:

I asked to sign up for a hosted email solution. I received a PDF from a service rep which had a quote for a hosted exchange mailbox “starting at only $4.99 a month!”

However, the service rep I emailed said that it would cost $11.99. When I asked him what the $4.99 option in the PDF was, he said:

From: Eric
Sent: Monday, February 27, 2006 2:27 PM
To: Greg
Subject: RE: Hosted Exchange & Outlook Web Access Account


The $4.99 is the cost if a mailbox only (the pdf is a marketing thing).  You also need to purchase storage at $6.99 per 100MB, and you have to buy a minimum of 100MB.

So, aggressively shading the truth and tricking people is a "marketing thing." Next…

Just got off the phone with a computer at the local sales offices at Verizon… trying to change my service, a big chance, it seems, to make some more money at their end. Hit five or six buttons on the phone tree. Then the voice says, I’m quoting here, "Due to excessive volume" your call cannot be handled. And then the computer hung up on me.

I just treasure the word "excessive." Excessive is a factory word, not a marketing word. If you’ve got too many people calling into your sales line, you don’t have a problem, you’ve got, I think, an opportunity.

Today Tom Peters quotes from one of my favorite books, The Art of Possibility, "A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to
study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram

Edges and clusters

Most organizations have a sweetspot. That’s the product or service that leads to highest profit, retention, customer satisfaction and word of mouth. If you walk into a certain bar and order a draft beer, you’re more likely in that sweetspot than if you ordered, say, a Coke. A different bar might discover that the customer that orders a top-shelf martini is most likely to lead to the best outcome.

Over time, you’ll start to develop slight variations on your sweetspot. If one kind of martini is good, then a few are even better. Pancake houses start selling Swedish, German and even Brazilian pancakes. Insurance companies start selling a dozen different variations on whole life.

Clusters work because people are likely to be drawn to a crowd. They also work because making a good, better, best comparison gives us the confidence to go ahead and buy something. It’s not an accident that profitable products like cars come in so many variations–having a choice makes it easier to choose (at least for a while). When Heinz comes in four colors, you don’t have to decide whether or not to buy ketchup… you merely have to decide which color, and they win every time.

Clusters have a few problems. The first is that you inevitably leave people out. If your restaurant serves nothing but spicy food, then the odd duck who came with a group and doesn’t like spicy food is going to go away unhappy.

Clusters get boring. If all you’ve got is another variation of the same fundraising tool that’s worked so well for you, it’s hard to get a meeting with me (again).

And most of all, clusters make it hard to develop new sweetspots. First-class long-haul travel was a great sweetspot for Pan Am, but when the world changed, they got hammered.

So, consider this: not just clusters, but edges, too.

Maybe your bar ought to start selling amazing hot chocolate.

It’s hard to make outliers, because it’s so tempting to gradualy work your way over, making each new product an extension of your sweetspot. That doesn’t work. It just adds skus to your life.

An edge needs to be sharp and abrubt and distinct in order to generate the light it needs to thrive.

It’s here, the microsoft ipod packaging parody

Tom O’Leary wants you to see: YouTube – microsoft ipod packaging parody.

If you’ve ever worked in a place with more than three marketers, this is so accurate, you might cry.

Once more, but slowly

How much of what you’re transmitting is actually getting through?

Of course you’re listening. You’re the one that’s sharing such valuable insight with the universe. You’re busy talking about your product or your new book or your organization. You walk into a meeting and there are four impatient people sitting around the table, urging you on, faster faster faster don’t waste our time.

So you assume that they’re getting it the first time.

They’re not.

Odds are, your very clear, very useful ideas are getting garbled in translation. I’ll do a post on a topic, and people will trackback to it, announcing that I’ve said something quite different. I double check my riff to be sure I said what I meant to say, and yes, I did. But they didn’t hear me.

It’s so tempting to compress your ideas into the smallest possible space and assume that the text or the images or the design will carry the day. But we know that repetition is essential.

The paradox is that the long stuff gets skipped. The long stuff gets ignored. Short books sell better, short commercials get more viewers. So repetition becomes essential. It’ll bore your biggest fans, but you can do that (a little).

Sticking to (and building on) your story works if you do it over time.

The last time

This might be the last time you see me in your hotel.

It might be the last time you get to give me support on the $3,000 a month web hosting I’m buying from you.

It might be my last blog post (unlikely, but possible).

With so many choices, every business lives right on the edge. When you were the only florist in my town, storming off in a huff cost me as much as it cost you. Now, it’s sort of trivial to just type a few different letters into my browser.

Yes, switching costs make some people hesitate before moving to Firefox or KPMG or National Rent a Car. But when customers have been trained to no longer tolerate imperfection, they can go (forever) at any moment.

I try to give every speech I do like it might be the last chance I ever get to give one. I still remember the last canoe lesson I gave, the last time I walked out the door at my one real job and the last time I talked to my mom. Sometimes you get advance warning, sometimes you get to cherish the moment or try a bit harder. Other times, though, it just–stops.

If you know that tomorrow is your last chance, is it going to go differently?

Switching costs

Been spending the last 24 hours moving my life from one laptop to another… and I’m not even switching brands.

In some ways, it’s easier than ever to switch. Those brands face price pressure and churn. On the other hand, moving my email, my frequent flyer miles or my medical history is such a hassle that I shudder to even consider it.

Hope to be back to normal soon!


Shea Gunther is using a lens to coordinate a fundraising blogathon (I don’t think Jerry Lewis is invited, though). Link: Squidoo : The Green Blogathon.

Vegas hotel, San Francisco sushi

Apropos of nothing much:

The Artisan Hotel in Las Vegas is filled with thousands of reproductions of oil paintings… even on the ceilings. Really nice people, no slot machines. There was a pool table in our room.

Zushi Puzzle in San Francisco has the most amazing fish I’ve ever been privileged to be served. And Roger behind the bar is charming and funny and without pretense. Ask to see the photo of the pencil fish. And it’s almost inexpensive enough to be scary.

Both are purple cows. Neither is trying to fit in (Roger’s place doesn’t look as good as it is) and both are worth talking about.

Neither spends much on real estate. Or advertises. Both do great.

Nice to see remarkable when it works. Tell Roger I sent you.