Defenders of the status quo at newspapers, book publishers and the magazine industry are in a panic. Some are even misguidedly asking for government regulation or a bailout.
All three industries are doomed (if doomed means that they will be unrecognizable in ten–probably three–years). And yet…
And yet there's no shortage of writing, or things to read. No shortage of news, either. And there doesn't appear to be one on the horizon. In fact, there's more news, more images and more writing available to more people more often than ever before in history.
No, just about all of the whining is about protecting paper, the stuff the ideas are printed on, not the ideas themselves.
It's paper that makes the economics of the newspaper industry work (or not work). It's paper that creates cost and slows things down and generates scarcity. And scarcity is what they sell.
It's paper that makes the book industry what it is. As soon as you remove paper from the equation, the costs change, the timing changes, the barriers to entry change, the risk changes. And defenders of the status quo don't like change.
Is there not enough paper in your life? Why are we wringing our hands about the demise of paper as the economic gating factor for ideas? In fact, some of the trees I know are delighted that we've found a better, faster, cheaper way to spread ideas.
If the demise of paper means that good people doing good work in important industries will have to find faster and better ways to do their jobs, I don't think that's a bad thing.
Carole Mallory was Norman Mailer's mistress. Seducing him probably wasn't that difficult, though, as he was already on his sixth wife at the time.
Marketers seek to seduce. So do painters, authors and job seekers. The most important thing to understand about seduction is this: it only works when the other person cooperates, contributes and is at some level interested in being seduced.
In short: it's a lot easier to seduce someone whose worldview and attitude makes them open to it. If you want to be successful at whatever form of seduction you have in mind, seek out the right people.
Some people were seduced by the iPad. Many ignored it. It wasn't that the iPad changed from person to person, what changed was the audience's worldview and openness.
And yet as marketers we seem to want to treat everyone the same, want to please everyone, want to come up with the magic words that open every heart.
A mass marketer needs to reach the masses, and to do it in many ways, simultaneously. The mass marketer needs retail outlets and fliers and a website and public relations and tv ads and more more more and then… bam… critical mass is reached and success occurs.
Best Buy is a mass marketer, but so are Microsoft and the Red Cross. Ubiquity, once achieved, brings them revenue, which advances the cycle and they reach scale.
The direct marketer, on the other hand, must get it right in the small. That pitch letter can be tested on 100 houses and if it gets a 2% response rate, then it can be mailed to 100,000 houses with confidence. That business-to-business sales pitch can be honed on one or two or three prospects, and then when it works, can be taught to dozens or hundreds of other salespeople.
The key distinction is when you know it's going to work. The mass marketer doesn't know until the end. The direct marketer knows in the beginning.
The mass marketer is betting on thousands of tiny cues, little clues, and unrecorded (but vital) conversations. The direct marketer is measuring conversion rates from the first day.
That's the reason we often default to acting like mass marketers. We're putting off the day of reckoning, betting on the miracle around the corner, spending our time and energy on the early steps without the downside of admitting failure to the boss.
Of course, just because it's our default doesn't mean it's right. Business to business marketing is almost always better if you treat it like direct marketing. Most websites that do conversion as well. Same with non-profit fundraising. As well as marketing goods and services to the bottom of the pyramid, people who live in villages where mass media and mass distribution are difficult and have little impact.
Get it right for ten people before you rush around scaling up to a thousand. It's far less romantic than spending money at the start, but it's the reliable, proven way to get to scale if you care enough to do the work.
Word of mouth is generated by surprise and delight (or anger). This is a function of the difference between what you promise and what you deliver (see clever MBA chart to the right—>).
The thing is, if you promise very little, you don't get a chance to deliver because I'll ignore you. And if you promise too much, you don't get a chance to deliver, because I won't believe you…
Hence the paradox. The more you promise, the less likely you are to achieve delight and the less likely you are to earn the trust to get the gig in the first place. Salespeople often want you to allow them to overpromise, because it gets them through the RFP. Marketers, if they're smart, will push you (the CEO) to underpromise, since that's where the word of mouth is going to come from.
I have worked with someone who is very good at the promising part. She enjoys it. And when the promises don't work out, she's always ready with the perfect excuse. This is a great strategy if you have a regular job and the excuses are really terrific, but if you need internal or external clients, it gets old pretty fast. It certainly doesn't lead to the sort of word of mouth one is eager to encounter.
Surgeons have this problem all the time. They promise a complete, pain-free recovery and work hard to build up a positive expectation, particularly for elective surgery. And the entire time you're in bed, in pain, unable to pee, all you can do is hate on the doctor.
This is one reason why recovering from failure is such a great opportunity. If you or your organization fail and then you pull out all the stops to recover or make good, the expectation/delivery gap is huge. You don't win because you did a good job, you win because you so dramatically exceeded expectations.
Click to listen
In May, I did a talk for the Independent Book Publishers (site).
The link above gives you a free and slightly abridged recording of the talk, probably of interest if you are focused on how industries are making (or not) the shift to the new rules of a digital age.
Only for people who attend the Road Trip sessions.
This is the second edition, with a focus on Washington DC.
For non-commercial use only, please.
What story do you tell yourself about yourself?
I know that marketers tell stories. We tell them to clients, prospects, bosses, suppliers, partners and voters. If the stories resonate and spread and seduce, then we succeed.
But what about the story you tell yourself?
Do you have an elevator pitch that reminds you that you're a struggling fraud, certain to be caught and destined to fail? Are you marketing a perspective and an attitude of generosity? When you talk to yourself, what do you say? Is anyone listening?
You've learned through experience that frequency works. That minds can be changed. That powerful stories have impact.
I guess, then, the challenge is to use those very same tools on yourself.
Greetings have traditionally been an acknowledgment of the other person. "I see you." "Hello." "Greetings."
Then, we moved on to, "how are you?" or even, "how's business?"
Recently, though, our performance-obsessed, live-forever society has morphed the greeting into something like, "please list everything going on in your life that isn't as perfect as it should be."
In a business setting, this causes bad prioritization decisions. The owner of the bar says to the manager, "how was the night?" and the response is, "the cash register came up $8 short." Suddenly, there's an urgent problem to be solved. How to replace the eight dollars and who do we fire?
If the question instead had been, "what's up?" (as in literally up) the answer might have been, "well, there's a big party at table 12, another going away party. They've been buying champagne all night. And Mary told me she set a new record for tips. And the new beer we added on tap is…"
Highlighting what's working helps you make that happen more often.
Perfect is overrated. Perfect doesn't scale, either.
I'm not proposing you endorse theft or ignore the bad news. But it's clear that one more going away party on table 12 is going to make up for that one piece of bad news, every time.
There are two things we can get better at:
1. Getting accurate signals from the world. Right now, we take in information from many places, but we're not particularly focused on filtering the information that might be false, and more important, what might be missing.
2. Sorting and ranking information based on importance. We often make the mistake of ranking things as urgent, which aren't, or true, which are false, or knowable, when they're not.
Dealing successfully with times of change (like now) requires that you simultaneously broaden your reach, focus on what's important and aggressively ignore things that are both loud and false.
Easier said than done.