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It’s a cross between…

As the web gets more sophisticated, we find new variations all the time. Chris points us to SwitchPlanet.Com. Craigslist meets eBay meets Netflix. For charity.

How to Succeed in Business (to Business)

The secrets might surprise you. The most successful b2b organizations, in my opinion, understand the value of:

  • Patience
  • Promises
  • Being Centered

We worked very closely with Brian and his team at Viget for a many months building the initial architecture of Squidoo. There are plenty of shops that can do web programming, plenty that claim they can do UI work and plenty that are even hipper than you. There are very few that manage to pull off the kind of work that Viget does. They were on time, on budget and most important, they didn’t cause anyone to lose sleep.

The very things that I look for as a consumer (surprise, fashion, edginess) were in short supply here. Instead, Viget went out of their way to never overpromise. They pushed the hard decisions early in the process so that the thrashing was early, not late. In fact, the end of the process was the most delightful part. Because they know who they are and are clear about it to themselves and to their clients, the chances of making an honest connection with their clients is much higher than someone who is trying to be all things to all people.

Drew Dusebout, a broker/financial planner I know at UBS is the same way. Drew doesn’t make vague promises about financial returns, and he doesn’t get all excited at the latest gimmick. Instead, he’s honest with himself and his colleagues about the world he works in, and his clients always get exactly what they expect. Sure, this is a more difficult way to grow (at first) because you can’t seduce the people who are the most likely to jump ship. You can’t promise some shortcut that gets you the quick clients. But in the long run, I don’t know of any other way to market a service like his.

Here’s the hard part about this: if you’re very good at what you do, you won’t grow. Because lots of people are good at what you do. No one is going to be busy referring you and sending you business just because you’re very good. Sorry.

The only way to consistently grow in B2B is to be better than very good. In fact, it’s to find something that organizations need and be the very best in the world at it. Hopefully, that thing is something that organizations in your sphere are eager to talk about among themselves. If it is, you win. There’s a line at your door for years to come.

Marketing your job

I’ve gotten a few links from marketers who are struggling to find amazing people and working to do it with outbound videos.

This is part of a larger trend, which is realizing that an amazing hire is worth far more than a mediocre one, or even a very good one.

My take?

There’s a difference between being noticed and succeeding.

Sometimes you need to be noticed far and wide in order to succeed. That’s why some TV ads for low-involvement products are noisy or funny or over the top.

Often though, especially for something like a job, I think that sacrificing your message in order to get noticed is a mistake. Making a video that tries to be funny in order to spread doesn’t necessarily get you the right applicants.

Here’s what’s missing from the hiring equation: organizations try to treat jobs like commodities and as a result, often end up treating themselves as commodities. All jobs are the same, our job is a little closer and we pay a little better, call us. Sure, companies all brag about the work environment and benefits and such, but when they come right down to it, they’re not so different.

But what if you were different?

Just as a great product becomes remarkable–not because of the marketing claims, but because it really is worth talking about–a great job can be the same sort of thing. I’d use the video in a different way. Instead of trying to be funny viral, I’d try to be honest viral. Let me really understand who the boss is going to be, what the office is like, what the work is like. Sell the job, not the job opening.

Of course, this isn’t an easy thing to do, but neither is marketing anything else.

Showing up on time

…with a smile on your face is almost always more important than what you actually say or do.

Rotating crops

Sure, every farmer knows that rotating crops helps the soil recover and increases yield.

What about email farming? I was talking to Josh today about this and it occurred to me that the rules are the same.

If you’re sending emails regularly, don’t send the same thing. Don’t send the same format, don’t send the same offer, don’t ask for the same response. Rotating your offers and your interactions maintains interest, surprise and makes your core offers more appealing.

Name tags

I love name tags.

I think doing name tags properly transforms a meeting. Here’s why:
a. people don’t really know everyone, even if they think they do.
b. if you don’t know someone’s name, you are hesitant to talk to them.
c. if you don’t talk to them, you never get to know them and you both lose.
d. if you are wearing a name tag, it’s an invitation to start a conversation.

One summer, I led 90 people, some strangers to each other, through a three-day training. Every single person had to wear a hat with his or her name on it until every person in the group knew every other person’s name and could prove it. It took two days. Worth it.

Doing a name tag right isn’t easy. Here are my rules:
a. BIG first name
b. positioned in a place where you can see it
c. ideally two-sided, on a short lanyard (why on earth would you make a one-sided lanyard tag?)
d. a piece of information that is an ice breaker. Here’s my latest example. Every single sticker had a different picture. No real logic behind it. But what if there was? What if attendees picked their favorite movie star, metaphor, state capital, political gaffe, Saturday Night Live skit… anything worth talking about?

Mormon evangelists all wear name tags. Great idea. Doctors used to. Too bad they don’t. Now it’s almost like a Prisoner thing, where the only purpose of the tag is to enable you to tattle on someone who doesn’t give you good service.

100 pounds per sticker

Pete points us to These Come From Trees Blog. I think the fascinating thing here is to start from the bottom and read his thought process. How it turned from an idea into a story and then a product. Even the non-professional typesetting is a key part of what’s going on here.

The billion-dollar question–Joe Schmo wins

Does context matter?

If you’re running a pay per click ad designed to support a cost-per-acquisition strategy, (Google AdWords, et.al.) then does it matter where your ad runs?

Remember, the point of the ad is to get someone to click (that’s what you’re charged for…  the click) and then the goal of the site is to convert that click into permission and eventually a customer.

So, does it matter where the ad runs if it works?

Media buyers sure think so. Jason Klein at Special Ops Media says, "With Quigo, you know it’s on ESPN.com, not Joe Schmo’s sports blog."

I can understand why a media buyer would say this. I can understand why Jason Clement at Carat said, "We had essentially pulled all of those big advertisers off of the ad networks [Google, Yahoo] by the end of the year." After all, the media buyers need to demonstrate that they are using their hard-earned intuition to actually earn their commissions.

But if I were one of those ‘big advertisers,’ I’d think really hard about whether Jason is doing me a service. The hard work of running contextual ads is testing. Run an ad, test the landing page, see what works. If it works, do it more. If it doesn’t work, do it less.

Sure, you need to start with intuition. But my intuition tells me that Joe Schmo’s sports blog might actually perform better than a high-profile site. My intuition tells me that a click process that begins on a digital photo review site is more likely to lead to a purchase than one that begins on a fine art website.

In order to make this work, the big ad networks need to tell you where the traffic is coming from and they need to make it easy for you to choose where to run the ads next time so you can repeat and scale the process.

The funny thing is that this context argument was perfected by the big networks when cable TV came along. They used it to justify selling unmeasurable expensive ads on mass market network shows against the competition: unmeasurable ads on more focused cable shows. Then it happened again with banner ads–the big name sites always could charge more than the smaller ones.

This time, though, we’ve got numbers. Let’s use em.

Precision in language

"The building was full—though not completely full—of cheerful…" Kelefa Sanneh in today’s New York Times. That was enough to get me to stop reading.

Here’s the thing: people are reading less than ever. They’re reading faster than ever. And they’re jumping to the next thing at a moment’s notice.

Why waste a sentence saying nothing?

Worse, why say less than nothing by being contradictory or vague or (worst of all) hyperbolic? Even if you think your site is, "the most unique," you probably need to edit your words.


Jim Davis, CEO of New Balance, in the Boston Globe (thanks, Damian):

Q. What was wrong with New Balance’s approach to apparel?

A It was my fault. We just didn’t do it right. We didn’t have the right people. We tried to be all things to all people and didn’t do anything right.