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The bad table

I saw a marketing dilemma at the hot new restaurant I went to the other night.

We got there on time at 6:30 and the restaurant was about a third full. We were promptly seated at the worst table in the place, in the back, in the corner, cramped by the kitchen.

We were first-time patrons, having secured a reservation via Open Table. That made us doubly second-class citizens, I guess.

We asked for a better table, pointing to one a few feet away. "Oh, I’m sorry, that one is reserved."

The chances, of course, that a particular table is reserved are close to zero. What he meant was, "oh, we have a regular customer who deserves that table more than you."

Hence the marketing dilemma: who should get your best effort? Should it be the new customer who you just might be able to convert into a long-term customer? Or should it be the loyal customer who is already valuable?

Sorry, but the answer is this: you can’t have a bad table.

No one wants to settle for the bad table, your worst salesperson, your second-rate items. Not the new customers and not the loyal ones…

Which means you need to figure out how to improve your lesser offerings. Maybe the table in the worst location comes with a special menu or a special wine list or even a visit from the chef. Maybe the worst table, for some people, becomes the best table because of the way you treat people when they sit there…

Treat different people differently. But don’t treat anyone worse.

The world’s worst toaster

We recently acquired what might be the worst toaster in the history of the world. It’s pretty fancy and shiny and microprocessor controlled. And it makes toast.

But here’s what I have to do to use it:

  1. Choose the number of slices, and bagel or bread.
  2. Remember whether it counts the slices from the left or the right (the left).
  3. Insert the bread.
  4. Push down the handle.
  5. Choose toast or defrost.
  6. Make sure the darkness level is right. (This doesn’t count, because it usually is).
  7. Press on.
  8. Wait till it beeps.
  9. Lift the handle I pressed in #4.
  10. Turn it off.

Most toasters, of course, consist of steps 3 and 4 only.

I thought about this when I got a note from eBay asking me to pay my bill for an item I sold last month. It says:

To view your invoice and make a payment:
1. Go to http://www.ebay.com and click "My eBay" at the top of most eBay pages. You will need to sign in.
2. Click the "Seller Account" link (beneath "My Account" on the left side of the page).
3. Click the "View invoices" link, and then select the invoice you want to view from the pull-down menu.
4. To make a payment, click the "make a one-time payment" link in the "eBay Seller Fees" section.

It took me more than 11 clicks to send them $6.

The opportunity online is to fix your toaster. When you want to make toast, the site should get out of the way and let you make toast.

What you can learn from Arthur C. Clarke

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

In 1983, I was lucky enough to lead the team that turned one of his novels into a computer game, the first time science fiction authors had worked in that medium. His computer game ended up grossing more than most of his books ever did.

He really was a genius.

The most important thing you can take away: Naming things is important. He made magic things real by describing them and talking about them in ways that felt real. Once something feels real, making it real is a lot easier.

Still a few seats left

I’m doing an interactive, all-day seminar on April 30th in New York. Your issues, all day.

There are a few seats left. I hope you can come.

Before you buy your next ad…

My suggestion is that you spend thirty seconds watching this video.

Safe for work, audio is okay. Thanks to Ken for pointing it out. [And Bryan points out this original. Hope the client didn’t pay too much for the new one!]

You were going to spend how much to distract me from what I was doing?

Why bother having a resume?

This is controversial, but here goes: I think if you’re remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular, you probably shouldn’t have a resume at all.

Great people shouldn’t have a resume.

Here’s why: A resume is an excuse to reject you. Once you send me your resume, I can say, “oh, they’re missing this or they’re missing that,” and boom, you’re out.

Having a resume begs for you to go into that big machine that looks for relevant keywords, and begs for you to get a job as a cog in a giant machine. Just more fodder for the corporate behemoth. That might be fine for average folks looking for an average job, but is that what you deserve?

If you don’t have a resume, what do you have?

How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?
Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
Or a reputation that precedes you?
Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

Some say, “well, that’s fine, but I don’t have those.”

Yeah, that’s my point. If you don’t have those, why do you think you are  remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular? It sounds to me like if you don’t have those, you’ve been brainwashed into acting like you’re sort of ordinary.

Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for… those jobs don’t get filled by people emailing in resumes. Ever.

Opportunity of a lifetime

So, there’s plenty of bad economic news floating around. From the price of oil to Wall Street to bailouts to the death of traditional advertising.

Which is great news for anyone hoping to grow or to make an impact.

Change (and the fortunes that go with it) is almost always made during the down part of the cycle. It might not be fun, but it’s exciting. (Where do you think Google came from?) The opportunity is to find substantial opportunities (in any field) that deliver real value and have a future. Those jobs/investments/companies/ideas are undervalued right now, but not for long.


Persistence isn’t using the same tactics over and over. That’s just annoying.

Persistence is having the same goal over and over.

How many record execs does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

From Dan Kennedy’s very funny new book:

First of all, before we change anything, is the light bulb really
burned out? Maybe we just need to breathe some life into it; repackage
it, maybe the light bulb could do a duet with somebody (Sheryl Crow?
Tim McGraw?) in hopes of getting some crossover appeal, maybe it could
be in a beer commercial, maybe we could get it out on the road with a
brighter light bulb. The other thing to think about is that this
summer, Honda is rolling out a 100 Million dollar campaign for a new
car aimed at thirty-somethings who consider themselves
adventurous/spontaneous but can’t really afford something like a luxury
S.U.V. and it might be a perfect campaign to tie this light bulb into,
at least it would be the perfect demographic, in terms of age.

Also, and this is just an idea: what if we found out what video
games are being released in the third quarter and maybe pitched the
idea of having our light bulb make an appearance in the video game at
some certain level of completion; like, you get to a dark cave, let’s
say, if it’s an adventure game, and if you have enough points you can
get the light bulb – and it would be our light bulb, obviously – and
then it’s easier to see in the cave. The other thing is this:
worst-case scenario the light bulb is, in fact, burned out. Is that
really the end of the world? I mean, maybe that’s actually of more
value to us in the long run: Picture this for voice over: "The light
bulb is dead. . . but the legend lives on. . . re-released,
re-mastered, revealed. . . the light bulb. . . IN STORES NOW." It
almost makes more sense than taking the time changing it, plus, if it’s
dead we can sell it without dealing with it, you know what I mean? No
demands from it, no hotels, no road expense, no delays in the project
from its end, etc. But, like I said, I’m just thinking off the top of
my head here, just brainstorming, and none of this is written in stone.
But the first thing we should do is figure out how we want to handle
this, because the light bulb’s manager is a total nightmare and we’re
going to have to take a meeting and listen to him sooner or later, and
we should know what our plan is before we sit down with him. And let me
tell you right now that the first thing out of his mouth is going to
be, "This light bulb should be the brightest light bulb in the world,
and it could be the brightest light bulb in the world, but you need to
support the light bulb, you need to give the light bulb TV ads, you
need to be more active in giving the light bulb tour support, we need
to have some promotion from your end!" and on and on. And in that
meeting, if you’re in it, the only answer from our side should be that
we’re obviously very excited to be working with the light bulb, that we
don’t think it needs to be changed, that the only problem is people
haven’t seen how bright the light bulb could be, and our plan is to do
everything we can to make this light bulb happen.

I’ll send out an email to everyone before the meeting to remind
people of our position on this, but the bottom line is we don’t have
the budgets right now, and basically we need to see something happening
with the light bulb before we go throwing good money after bad, but
obviously we can’t have the light bulb’s manager hearing that. I can
tell you all that I’m personally very excited to be working with the
light bulb, I think it will light up very brightly, and we’re not going
to stop working the light bulb, in whatever ways budgets will permit,
until it does, in fact, light up very brightly. . . the light bulb is a
very big priority for us from the top of the company to the bottom.
Period. We can talk more about this when I am back from Barbados next
week, and I’m going to need everybody’s help on this. I know we can do
it, but we need everybody working hard.

The needle in a haystack problem

I’m having real trouble with the interface between gmail and Apple mail. So is Megan. My plea for insight and help is right here. Basically, once in a while, it skips some mail.

Forum posts have not been successful at troubleshooting this. I have no doubt that this blog post will find the person insightful, smart and kind enough to tell me what to do.

Which leads to the point of the post: what if you don’t have a popular blog?

How do you find that one person in the wide wide world that has the answer to your question, whatever your question might be?

Google is amazing partly because it goes so far in helping with the haystack problem. Want a part for your 1957 drill press? You can find it on Google.

But Google doesn’t help with finding experts when the problem is hard to define, or when interactivity is required. And just about any solution you can dream up has a friction problem: once the system is in place, it will get used too much, by too many questioners, and suddenly it won’t be interesting enough for the masses to listen. For example, Craigslist suffers from a decreasing signal to noise ratio (it’s a lot less fun to browse than it used to be).

Let’s say, for example, I was an executive recruiter. Surely, I would benefit from interrupting every person on the planet to advertise a great new job. But I couldn’t do it every day or every hour…

Part of the success of Facebook is that for your group of friends, you do get that ability (at least until they stop being your friends). But the laws of information make it clear that it doesn’t scale.

No, there isn’t an obvious answer. But yes, it’s a universal problem. Worth a think when you get a chance.