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What’s a slogan for (banal on purpose)

At MWC, Claes Magnusson saw the following slogans on 25 different high tech booths (companies like IBM, HP, etc.)

Built Around People, Shaping Tomorrow With You, Leading A Smarter Planet, Your Messages Shape Our Future, Now What?, The Power Of Now, Today Changes, Power To You, Powering The Smartphones Of Tomorrow, Just Add Friends, Connecting the world enabling value, Creating experiences TOGETHER, Delivering Tomorrow's Experiences Today, No Longer Just An Idea, Bringing You Closer, Smart Devices, Simple World , Innovation Delivered, Simply Your Solution, The Future Changes Everyday, Take Charge Of Profits, Simply Different, Deploy Everywhere, There Is Here, Discover What's Possible, and No Hidden Surprises

What are they for? Do they mean anything at all?

I think the big company corporate slogan is like heavy paper on the annual report, white space on the billboard and a suit on the sales rep. It's a signal, a sign that the company is big, that it's able to waste time dreaming this stuff up and waste money yelling about it. No one actually reads the slogan (at Yoyodyne, the internet company I founded in 1992, our stolen slogan was, "Where the future begins tomorrow." It was written on our business cards and everything. I don't think 1 person in a 100 commented on it).

Not everything you do actually gets a response. In fact, most of it doesn't. But each effort is a tiny brick in the wall of perception, even when it appears to be dumb and even senseless.

Art is what we call…

the thing an artist does.

It's not the medium or the oil or the price or whether it hangs on a wall or you eat it. What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human.

Art is not in the eye of the beholder. It's in the soul of the artist.

Two paths for successful group events

I'm talking about trade shows, SXSW, street marketing…

There are two ways to be glad you went:

1. An overwhelming show of force. When you have the biggest booth, when you are the buzz of the event, when you are everywhere people look, you reinforce your position as the leader.

2. Powerful personal interactions. Not with everyone. Just with people who want to talk with you, who will benefit from a powerful exchange. Not mass, but high in value. Even better, designing these interactions (and your product) so that this small number of people set out to evangelize their peers on your behalf.

The mistake almost everyone makes is to do both. Or to believe that they know a cheap shortcut on their way to #1. Or to get too busy chasing (and failing) at mass that they don't have time to do the personal.

Years ago, the company I worked for spent millions at various venues of the Consumer Electronics Show. We were there, we were sort of big and we sort of won. But not really. Too much noise, too much competition, we were neither. By trying to reach as many as we could, we were never intimate enough to generate conversations that mattered or ideas that spread…

Once again, it comes down to scale. If you staff and invest appropriately, you don't have to 'win' the show to make it worth the trip. On the other hand, if you're setting out to win and investing at the appropriate level, you better win.

On pricing power

If you’re not getting paid what you’re worth, there are only two possible reasons:
1. People don’t know what you’re worth, or
2. You’re not (currently) worth as much as you believe

The first situation can’t happen unless you permit it to. If you’re undervalued, then you have a communication problem, one that you can solve by telling accurate stories that resonate.

Far more likely, though, is the second problem. If there are reasonable substitutes for your work, and those substitutes are seen as cheaper, then you’re not going to get the work. 'Worth' in this case means, "what does it cost to get something like that if something like that is what I want?"

A cheaper substitute might mean buying nothing. Personal coaches, for example, usually sell against this alternative. It’s not a matter of finding a cheaper coach, it’s more about having no coach at all. Same with live music. People don't go to cheaper concerts, they just don't value the concert enough to go at all.

And so we often find ourselve stuck, matching the other guy's price, or worse, racing to the bottom to be cheaper. Cheaper is the last refuge of the marketer unable to invent a better product and tell a better story.

The goal, no matter what you sell, is to be seen as irreplaceable, essential and priceless. If you are all three, then you have pricing power. When the price charged is up to you, when you have the power to set the price, there is a line out the door and you can use pricing as a signaling mechanism, not merely a way to make a living.

Of course, the realization of what it takes to create value might break your heart, because it means you have to specialize, take risks, create art, leave a positive impact and adopt generosity in all you do. It means you have to develop extraordinary expertise and that you are almost always hanging way out of the boat, about to fall out.

The pricing power position in the market is coveted and valuable… The ability to have the power to set a price is at the heart of what it means to do business profitably, so of course there is a never-ending competition for pricing power.

The curse of the internet is that it provides competitive information, which makes pricing power ever more difficult to exercise. On the other hand, the benefit of the internet is that once you have it, the list of people who want to pay for your irreplaceable, essential and priceless contribution will get even longer.

Make big plans

…that's the best way to make big things happen.

Write down your plans. Share them with trusted colleagues. Seek out team members and accomplices.

Shun the non-believers. They won't be easily convinced, but they can be ignored.

Is there any doubt that making big plans increases the chances that something great will happen?

Is there any doubt that we need your art and your contribution?

Why then, are you hesitating to make big plans?

No one plays the lottery if there are no winners

In terms of practical mathematics, whatever lottery you're playing (the marry a millionaire lottery, the get picked to be on Oprah lottery, the get found at Hollywood and Vine and win an Oscar lottery) has no winner.

In other words, your chance of winning is so vanishingly small it's as if, from an investment point of view, there are no winners.

Which means that you should play the game for the thrill of playing it, for the benefits of playing it to a normal conclusion, not because you think you have any shot at all of winning the grand prize.

Does that change things for you?

Does it change the way you run an event which most people are going to 'lose'? How about changing the way you think about the lotteries you enter every day?

[Worth noting: most people who play state lotteries aren't playing to win. They're playing for the endorphin rush they get when they buy a ticket. Many people who win the big prize keep playing.]

An acre of attitudes

Anne Lamott relates an image from a friend in her great book on writing, Bird by Bird. My version:

Everyone is given an acre of attitudes at birth. It's yours to tend and garden and weed and live with. You can plant bitterness or good humor. Feel free to fertilize and tend the feelings and approaches that you want to spend time with. Unless you hurt someone, this acre is all yours.

Probably worth putting up a decent fence, so that only the attitudes that you choose will have a chance to put down seeds, but it's certainly a bad idea to put up a wall, because a walled garden is no good to anyone passing by. You get to decide what comes through your fence gate, right?

Watching out for invasive species—spending sufficient time on weeding and pruning and staking seem to be incredibly powerful tools for accomplishing the life you want. I refuse to accept that an attitude is an accident of birth or an unchangeable constant. That would be truly horrible to contemplate.

Happy Valentine's Day. Good luck with your garden.

Treating best customers better

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the way you treat your best customers is a fork in the road. You either treat them better or worse than everyone else.

To launch my first book with Amazon and the Domino Project, we're trying a neat experiment that rewards our biggest fans.

We're going to set the launch price of the Kindle edition (which is also readable on any computer or iPad) based on the number of people who subscribe to our free newsletter. It started at $9.99 and we've already lowered it two dollars.

For every 5,000 people who sign up for the newsletter this week, we're going to lower the price of the ebook a dollar, until (we hope) we reach a dollar. On the 21st of February, all our subscribers will get a link to the URL that lets them pre-order the Kindle edition at a reduced price until the official publication date.

You get it first and you get it for less.

Details are here… Thanks for being a best customer.

[It's sort of a twist on Kickstarter. In the case of that site, the creator says, "if enough people put in some money, I'll be able to make something." In this case, I'm saying, "If enough people put in some attention, I'll be able to bring you something on a regular basis." Once again, attention is truly valuable.]

Familiarity breeds respect

It's nice to sign a letter, "sincerely yours," but far more powerful, I think, to sign it, "with respect." It says something compelling about the recipient, something earned.

I realized the other day that I'd been working with the trio of Megan, Corey and Gil at Squidoo for five years, since we founded the company. And that I've been with Anne, my trusted bookkeeper, for more than ten years, David at GTN for almost as long, and Lisa, my agent, for more than seventeen. In an amazing bit of time travel, I've been doing projects with my friend Red for more than thirty.

Over time, you don't just come to trust valued colleagues like these, they also earn respect. Once you understand someone's sensibilities and goals, it's natural to see the world through their eyes and to embrace their motives and tactics. Once you've seen their work under pressure and in quieter moments, you get a sense for what they believe in. In a world of quick projects and short engagements, this sort of relationship is priceless.

It's easier than ever to start relationships that can turn into ones like these. Just as hard as it has ever been to make them last.

Evil plans, Enchantment and Orange County, California

Worth considering, three to pre-order:

Hugh MacLeod's new book is out this week. Once again, it will shatter your status quo. Possibly beyond repair.

Guy Kawasaki's beautifully titled book Enchantment, which comes out in March, will help you think differently about persuasion.

And I'll be the guest of Linked Orange County on March 2 for a speech in the evening. Get early bird (half price) pricing for a few more days.