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Just launched: Linchpin on the Vook on the iPad

The details are right here. Created by Vook, based on the hardcover.

Includes new video and interviews with some interesting folks…

The long tail challenge of the iPad store is getting more and more obvious to people. The ratio of "shelf space" to inventory is about the worst of any retail experience in the world. There are more than 24,000 apps listed in the iPad store, and yet the front window (equivalent to the window of a bookstore) shows the user six choices. The spotlight coverflow up top shows another sixteen, fairly randomly. Meaning there's a little worse than a one in a thousand chance that your app will appear in front of someone interacting with the store at the first level.

I have no doubt that as Apple sees revenue increase from this source, they'll do a much better job of crosslinks and browsing. But, once again, the lesson of the long tail is this: you can't count on the gatekeeper to do your promotion for you. Getting picked feels like a needle in a haystack, and the value of permission, of connecting directly to people who care instead of ceding control to a middle man, is at the heart of building an asset. Someone is going to be the gatekeeper, and it should be you.

The corporate conscience

There isn't one.

Corporations don't have a conscience, people do.

That means that every time you say, "It's just my job," or "My department has a policy," or "All I do is work here," what you've done is abdicated responsibility–to no one.

It's convenient and even comfortable to blame the anonymous actions of many working in concert on a evanescent brand or organization, but that starts you on an inevitable race to the bottom. Organizations have more power than ever before. They are better synchronized, faster, and possess more tools to change the economy and the people in it than ever before. And the only option available to the rest of us is for individuals to take responsibility (it's not given) for what they do and how they do it.

The very same tools that permit organizations to synchronize their efforts are now available to you and to me. I guess the question is: will we use that power to humanize the systems we've created?

PS It's not just about being a good citizen: when bad behavior comes back to hurt the company, it hurts you, too.

Professionals, amateurs and the great unwashed

If you want something done, perhaps you would ask a professional to do it. Someone who costs a lot but is worth more than they charge. Someone who shows up even when she doesn't feel like it. Someone who stands behind her work, gets better over time and is quite serious indeed about the transaction.

Or perhaps you could hire a passionate amateur. That's a forum leader doing it for love, not money. An obsessive in love with the craft. A talented person willing to trade income for the chance to do what he loves, with freedom.

Please, though, don't hire someone who just thinks it's a job. This category represents the majority of your options, and this category is what gives work a bad name.

Don’t forget about color

Mspair The airport in Minneapolis is expensive and reasonably thoughtful in its design.

But the signs are monochromatic. As a result, the tired traveler wanders in circles, looking for her destination. Imagine how much easier it would be to find out where you were going if every sign with the word TAXI on it had it in yellow instead of white. Once you knew the color of where you were going, you'd just naturally scan for it.

Google and our text-based low-res online world seems to argue against color as a signal, but it's extraordinarily powerful. You don't need to make a big deal of of it, subtle is enough. Make the button you want pressed green on every page. Soon, your users will naturally gravitate to green buttons…

This works in Powerpoint presentations and even contracts. A little goes a long way.

A little out of sync

All those devices in your bag make it easier than ever to stay in sync.

You can reap what you sow in Farmville, keep up with your email, know what's going on on every important blog, be in the right room at the right time earning badges, etc. You can synchronized at all times.

And if you get a little out of sync, just a little, it's painful. One more reason you might want to stop reading this and check your feeds.

Building your success on being more in sync than everyone else is a sharp edge to walk on. You'll always be near the edge of perfect sync, but never there.

The alternative is to be a lot out of sync.

People who are way out of sync with the digital maelstrom of the moment aren't always bad followers. They might be great leaders.

The blizzard of noise (and the good news)

As the amount of inputs go up, as the number of people and ideas that clamor for attention continue to increase, we do what people always do: we rely on the familiar, the trusted and the personal.

The experience I have with you as a customer or a friend is far more important than a few random bits flying by on the screen. The incredible surplus of digital data means that human actions, generosity and sacrifice are more important than they ever were before.

Senior management

A newly-retired executive takes a job as an adjunct professor and really shakes things up. Both the school and the students are blown away by her fresh thinking and new approaches.

A forty-year old internet executive who has been running his company for decades misses one new trend after another, because he's still living in 1998.

One thing that happens to management when they get senior is that they get stuck. (As we saw with the new professor, senior isn't about old, it's about how long you've been there).

If you've been doing it forever, you discover (but may not realize) that the things that got you this power are no longer dependable.

Reliance on the tried and true can backfire (Rupert keeps missing one opportunity after another, and keeps misunderstanding the medium he works in) or it can (rarely) pay off (Steve Jobs keeps repeating the same business model again and again–it's not an accident that Apple has no real online or social media footprint. Steve believes in beautifully designed objects, closed systems and evangelizing to developers and creatives).

Worth quoting–one of Arthur C. Clarke's lesser known three laws:  "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is
possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is
impossible, he is probably wrong."

The paradox is that by the time you get to be senior, the decisions that matter the most are the ones that would be best made made by people who are junior…

Sell the problem

No business buys a solution for a problem they don't have.

And yet, most business to business marketers jump right into features and benefits, without taking the time to understand if the person on the other end of the conversation/call/letter believes they even have a problem.

My friend Marcia (we've advised each other on various projects) has a very cool idea for large professional firms. As an architect, she realized the firms were wasting time and money and efficiency in the way they use their space. Roomtag is her answer. 

The challenge is this: if your big law firm or accounting firm doesn't think it has a space allocation/stuff tracking/office mapping problem, you won't be looking for a solution. You won't wake up in the morning dreaming about how to solve it, or go to bed wondering how much it's costing you to ignore it.

And so the marketing challenge is to sell the problem.

(Interesting paradox: a lot of people aren't willing to embrace that they have a problem unless they also believe that there's a solution… so part of selling a problem is hinting that there's a solution that others are using, or is right around the corner.)

Imagine, for example, getting the data and publishing a list of the top 50 firms, ranked by efficiency of space use. All of a sudden, the bottom half of the list realizes that yes, in fact, they have something that they need to work on. If you knew that your firm was paying twice as much per associate as the competition, you'd realize that there's a problem.

When a prospect comes to the table and says, "we have a problem," then you're both on the same side of the table when it comes time to solve it. On the other hand, if they're at the table because you're persistent or charming, the only problem they have is, "how do I get out of here."

Little lies and small promises

"I'll be out of bed in five minutes," is not a true statement because it's a promise not meant to be kept. It actually means, "go away, I'm sleeping, I'll say what I need to get rid of you."

"Your call is very important to us," is not a true statement either. The truth is self-evident.

"I promise I'll tell the manager about this," is of course not a real promise either. It might be uttered with good intent, or might be designed to get an annoying customer to go away, but still…

You can already guess the problem with little lies. They blur the line, and they lead (pretty quickly) to big lies. The worst kind of little lies are the ones you make to yourself. Once you're willing to lie to yourself, you're also willing to cheat at golf, and after that, it's all downhill.

Companies that refuse to break small promises have a much easier time keeping big promises. And they earn a reputation, one that makes their handshake worth more.

Given that expectation and trust are just about all we have left to sell, it seems to me that little lies and small promises are at the very heart of the matter. And they're a simple choice, nothing requiring an MBA or a spreadsheet.

It all depends on what you want to stand for.

The secret of the Roush effect

When Gerald Roush died in late May, he left behind the Ferrari Market Letter. This newsletter, which he started and ran, had nearly 5,000 subscribers, paying him $130 a year for a subscription. Do the math! It's a good living–even without a fancy website.

The newsletter, it appears, was not just lucrative, it was a bargain. It chronicled the pricing, whereabouts and details of just about every Ferrari ever made. If you were a buyer or a seller, you subscribed. If you wanted to run an ad, you were required to include the car's VIN, which added to Roush's voluminous database.

The Roush effect involves extraordinary domain knowledge, a market small enough to understand and diligently earning the role of data middleman. The players in the market want there to be one clearinghouse, one authority who can connect the data, see the trends and publish the conventional wisdom.

It might be a newsletter, a conference or an online database. The tactics don't matter, but the role is indispensable. If you need examples to persuade you to try this, they won't be hard to find. One of my favorites is my friend Michael's role in the book industry. He's bigger and more important than the famous (but failing) trade journal.

Just about every tribe needs a Gerald Roush. And in many markets, they can afford to pay someone like him very handsomely.