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Ramit asked: What’s easier now than later?

Dreaming was easier.

First, it was easier to sleep, but that’s an entirely different story.

I meant real dreams. Visions. Ideas of what was around the corner. I still do it, I push myself to do it, I work at it and it pays off. But in my 20s, it just happened. And I wrote em down. Writing your dreams down is a great idea.

Yes, but how do you search for that?

Over the last four years, search has changed the way we interact with the world. Just like you can’t remember what life was like before email, you’re probably having trouble remembering what you did before Google became a verb.

It’s easy to believe that search is mature, and the next big thing is going to be somewhere else. Actually, we’re about 5% done.

Example: What if I want to find a place to take 6 friends for a midweek retreat, near a lake, within an hour of my house. I know when I want to do it, I know about how much I want to spend, but I don’t know where. I don’t know if I want a private house for rent, or a condo or a hotel. I don’t know if it’s in Massachussets or New Jersey.

This is actually the way many people plan a trip like this one. If I do perhaps 75 online searches, I’ll start getting close to what I want.

Or what if I want to have a business meeting in Los Angeles in September. I know how many people, and approximately where the venue needs to be, but that’s it. It doesn’t matter a lot if it’s a private loft, a hotel or a restaurant. Gigs like this get planned all the time.

Or what if I need a new CRM system for my office…

If you’re a seller of that sort of accomodation, you’d love to know about me, no doubt.

So, how do we find each other?

No website is going to be able to aggregate all of the providers if it requires either a payment or incremental effort–it’s just unreasonable to expect that you’ll get the entire universe in any category to affirmatively sign up for something. It needs to be more passive than that. But it also needs to be incredibly intelligent to sort the junk from the good stuff.

So far, the most ubiquitous solution is Craig’s List, and while it’s a miracle, it’s not the answer.

How do you use search to introduce the right buyers to the right sellers when it’s not a frequent transaction of a commodity? I have no clue.

I’m betting someone is going to figure it out.


People don’t believe what you tell them.

They rarely believe what you show them.

They often believe what their friends tell them.

They always believe what they tell themselves.

Better than they deserve

At eight o’clock tonight, the best restaurant in Grand Cayman was deserted. Just two diners, chowing down on an astonishing whole red snapper, caught several hours before by a local fisherman.

Jindi, the owner of the Thai Restaurant in Georgetown, explained to me that they’ve been there for fifteen years and lunch pays the rent. "Every day, lunch is very busy… it’s the cruise ships," she explained.

Imagining a stream of classic cruise ship turistas invading her restaurant every day made me shudder. The restaurant does well at lunch because it has the perfect location for cruise ships (three blocks from the dock–exactly far enough way to seem exotic). Then I looked over the restaurant and realized that for more than a decade, Jindi has refused to compromise her standards. There are dozens of dishes that would disappear if she was only catering to the lunch crowd. Do the bulk of her customers care about her home-grown thai basil and lime leaves? There are preparations and ingredients that cost her a fortune, and it’s clear why she’s doing it. Not for the bulk of her customers, but for herself, for her staff and for the chowhounds she encounters at random.

Jindi’s refusal to compromise is yet another reason she’s doing so well at lunch, actually. Because taste is starting to catch up with her. People are now ordering the items she would have deleted ten years ago.

And in a connected world, it’s much easier for the chowhounds to leave a digital trail of breadcrumbs to her door.

Letting your customers set your standards is a dangerous game, because the race to the bottom is pretty easy to win. Setting your own standards–and living up to them–is a better way to profit. Not to mention a better way to make your day worth all the effort you put into it.

Marketers and money

Money is the enemy of most entrepreneurs and marketers. Actually, that’s not true. The search for money, the need for money and the desire to spend the money you have are the enemy.

From movies (Superman vs. Syriana or WordPlay) to coffee (Maxwell House vs. Starbucks) to technology (Microsoft vs. a kid in a room in Germany) we see it over and over again.

First rule: great product development and marketing almost always comes from organizations that don’t have enough money. Having less money keeps you from trying to buy your way out of trouble.

Second rule: learning to live with less money means you will develop skills and resources instead of buying them. And it means that when you have less money (again), you’ll be prepared.

Third rule: When you need money for something specific, go get it. But just for that. With good terms. As soon as you spend money to protect your money or leverage your money or account for your money or send a message about your money, the money is not only wasted, it hurts you.

The intuition vs. analysis conundrum

Let’s say you’ve got a really good idea. And you’ve had good ideas before.

You show it to your colleagues. They analyze it. They tell you why it’s not a good idea.


Do you go with your instinct? Is your gut reaction to be trusted? After all, you’ve been right before. After all, you’ve been wrong before.

The analysis, based on past events, certainly seems sound. But your instincts are the only way you’re going to do something unsound.

And unsound things become hits. Sound ones never do.

Who Moved My Cheese was unsound. So was publishing a book two years after you started blogging every chapter. So was an expensive, unfitted, almost untailored suit from Milan. So was running against Joe Lieberman.

The challenge is not to somehow persuade those in search of soundness to change their minds. The challenge is to do enough of a gut check to decide whether you should defend your instinct. And then do it.

Great moments in journalism

Couldn’t resist. From Reuters,

"With things as they are in Mexico, it bothers me that they put me in a
group of millionaires with $100 million I don’t have when there are so
many people dying of hunger," Hayek said, pausing the interview in a
brief panic to scoop a drowning rat out of her swimming pool.

Marketing matters

Yes, marketing works. The Saturday Journal writes about Michelle Nimmons, who runs the Denmark-Olar Teen Life Center in Denmark, SC. She and her staff (using nothing but marketing techniques like billboards, classroom sessions, free dinners and condom distribution) have cut the teen pregnancy rate by more than 60%. It’s now, by far, the lowest in the state, a fraction of the rate in the next county.

Most marketing problems aren’t intractable. They are solved with persistence, consistency and attention to detail. When marketing doesn’t work, it’s usually because the product is lousy. But the second reason is that the organization picks too big a marketplace in comparison to the resources they have available. I have no doubt that if Michelle tried to do her work in the entire state (with the same staff), she’d fail.

By overwhelming the market with her message, and by creating a platform for it to spread, she’s proven it can work.

Face to face

This snapshot of popular YouTube videos makes it super clear exactly what the phenonemon is about: people talking. One person, one camera, one story.

I have no doubt at all that we’re about to see a deluge of professionally created stuff… short form humor, serial non-fiction, commercials, etc. But right here, right now, it’s about people, not organizations.

Search term analytics gets more interesting

I’ll admit I’m not following this field as closely as I should, but I’m noticing lots of new tools like: 103bees.com. Free or nearly free analysis of how people are finding you online. Do a simple search like Marketing Chocolate in Google and you’ll see plenty of sites that would never have imagined they’d show up in the first few pages of the results.