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Whether or which

Most marketers are busy trying to persuade people to buy their product. Confusion sets in, though, when you compare a pitch designed to get someone to buy any product in the category (you need an mp3 player because you can listen to music) vs. buying your product instead of the competition (ours is cheaper and bigger and better).

Are you trying to make the market bigger, or just grow your share?

When competing against a market dominator, your marketing generates more bang for the buck when you try to steal people who have already been persuaded to enter the category by the other guy. This is the Newton running shoe story. Nike sells fitness, running, camaraderie, effort, glory. Newton sells "buy us instead of Nike."

It doesn't pay for an insurgent energy drink to sell "thirst" because much of that marketing will just get people to go buy the brands they've always bought. The opportunity instead is to provide leverage at the last possible moment in the buying cycle.

Getting new people to enter your market is hugely expensive. There's no way I can persuade a non-book buyer to start buying books–I don't have enough time or enough money.

This thinking rarely grows the market, though, so it falls on the market leader to figure out how to market well enough to get people into the category itself. The critical issue is to decide which one you're doing. Are you working on whether or not someone should buy, or on which one they should buy once they realize a need? Do your employees have the same answer?

This is broken

I did this talk about three years ago. [Higher quality version]. I have to admit that very little in the way of progress has occurred as a result.

Business rules of thumb

My very first book is no longer in print. It was called "Business Rules of Thumb" and it came out in 1984 (not a typo). My thesis was that if you understood the hidden rules people used in business, you could do a better job of understanding your peers and working with them.

My hero Alan Webber has just written a far better, for more useful and far more original take on this topic.

It goes on sale today.

Sixty to zero

Ever notice that most car specs focus on acceleration, not braking? It's more fun to focus on getting fast than it is on getting slow.

How would you manage or market differently if you knew that you had to hit the brakes, and hard? Slowing one thing and speeding up something else.

Prediction: there will be no significant newspapers printed on newsprint in the US by 2012. So, you've got two and a half years before the newspaper industry is going to be doing something else with the news and the ads, or not be there at all. Does that change what you do today if you work in this business?

Insight! The newspaper industry is in trouble, but news is not going to go away, just the paper part. Those who are working hard to preserve the paper part are asking the wrong questions and are doomed to fail.

Prediction: 90% of your sales will come from word of mouth or digital promotion by 2011. How do you change what you're doing today to be ready for that?

Prediction: The effort required to outsource a task involving the manipulation of data of any kind will continue to decrease until it will be faster and cheaper to outsource just about anything than it will be to use in-house talent. What will you do today to ensure your prosperity when that happens?

Question: how come the Stanford Publishing Course special week on digital media isn't sold out yet? It seems to me that if you know the old world is about to end, you'd run like crazy to master the new one.

Going fast, doing your best and then slamming into a cliff works best for Wile E. Coyote, not humans.

How to opt out of cookie sniffing and trading

As discussed before, there are networks of companies planting cookies on your machine and tracking behavior across websites. That means you'll see an ad on one site based on what you did on another.

You can opt out for free. Here's the not very well promoted link.

You'll see a list of which members of the NAI are already placing a cookie on your machine and you can get rid or some or all of them.

To be really clear: I don't mind the cookie sniffing. I don't mind getting better ads. I don't mind the sites making money.

I mind the sneaking around part.

Snarky vs. earnest

In the ongoing battle between dismissive irony and well-intentioned trustworthiness, the early rounds always seem to go to those that sell snark.

Snark is clever and funny and easy to spread. Snark protects us from confronting the truth of the situation, and snark is incredibly easy to do. Snark is fun, but it doesn't look good on you.

In the long run, though, it's those with right intention, a long term view and consistent persistence that manage to win.

Good thing, too.

Blogs, books and the irony of short

Blogs have eliminated the reason for most business books to exist. If you can say it in three blog posts and reach more people, then waiting a year and putting in all that effort seems sort of pointless. The chances that your effort will be rewarded with income in proportion to the time you put in are pretty low.

This has raised the bar for what it takes to write a decent business book. I really enjoyed The Peter Principle years ago, but I think we can all agree that today it would be better as a blog.

The best non-fiction books today either deliver a complex message that takes more space and attention than a short series of blog posts can deliver, or they are convenient packages to spread an idea from person to person in a more powerful way than an emailed link can. Books can take their time and build an argument, while blog posts are constantly fighting the reader's ability and desire to click away.

The irony? The market demands that you summarize your book in a blog post.

We're hesitant to buy a book (which is a far better value than just about any form of media) if we don't think we're going to like it. I guess that's built in from childhood, cause you get in trouble if you don't finish a book, and who wants to finish a book they don't like?

At least once a week, someone emails me a lousy review someone did of a summary of one of my books. Not the book, but what they thought the book was about based on a blog post summary of the book.

Critics and shoppers are doing the same thing about your spa, mp3 player and insurance company. We now review the blog post version of it, not the actual experience. "I heard the service at this restaurant was lousy." How's that for condensing four years of hard work and training into a sentence?

And then we complain when the long version doesn't pack enough
punch, seems too short and isn't transcendent enough for those that

This is irony (we say we want long and deep and rich but we also insist that it be condensed to a sentence) so it's not clear what you should do about it as a marketer, other than to accept that it's going on.

Making a living online

Chris just published this free manifesto. This PDF is what generous looks like.

Things to remember on a job interview


[update: the link is broken now]


How about this for an update:

Remember that a job interview isn’t a job, and that your goal is to find a path forward, not to get picked.

Careers are part of our practice. An interview is just an event.

What do you call things you disagree with?

In the 1950s, Congressman George A.
Dondero denounced modern art as a communist plot.

Every day, you market ideas that some people are annoyed with or more likely, afraid of. And in the face of fear, we lose eloquence and start calling things names, usually names that don't make a lot of sense.

Nothing is a communist plot any more, but there's never a shortage of bogeymen available to the people in the community that you're frightening.