When the hardware store sells you a single screw for a dime, shouldn't they just give it to you? Especially if you're a good customer?
Shouldn't that singer (you bought all her albums) return the love? You're only asking for a few seconds, a hug, a handshake, an autograph…
It's easier than ever to break your offering into smaller bits, into pieces that are part of the whole but are tiny on their own.
Add up enough small slices and that's the whole cake. Asymmetry is the rule now, not the exception.
Small slices can't be free in the long run, not if that's the only kind of slice there is.
Either you need to figure out how to sell your small slices, or you need to invent some big slices that are obviously worth what you need to sell them for.
You're going to hear that more and more often.
The movie, the book, the meeting, the memo… few people will tell you that they ran short.
(Shorter, though, doesn't mean less responsibility, less insight or less power. It means less fluff and less hiding.)
Loud and angry doesn't make you right. It just means that you are loud and angry.
I'm hosting a public event in New York City on May 16th. Save the date, registration opens April 16. More details then.
Sore muscles mysteriously respond to being soaked in a warm bath of water mixed with epsom salt.
"Everything will be alright" is not the same as "everything will stay the same."
If you grow up in a town with sidewalks, a suburb without them seems somehow wrong. Design instinct is cultural, not genetic.
I wish more people would read this post about spam and bcc email.
An interesting milestone in US politics: more and more people don't even like the Congress members they agree with.
One of the cheapest ways to have fun and save money is to check the air pressure in your car tires. Okay, maybe not fun, but still.
The pet supply store near my house now has a bakery section. It's either the end of civilization or the beginning.
Are we doing this because it's better?
Or because we can?
As organizations grow, they gain an audience, revenue, cash flow and trust. They add staff and then, soon, they decide it's time to offer something new. Smuckers decides perhaps it should use its shelf space to offer a peanut butter. A corporate coach wonders if he ought to add HR consulting services. A website decides to clone a product made by a smaller company that they can bring to a larger audience…
If you extend your reach because you can, because you have market power, you will probably be doing your existing customers a small service (centralized support or billing or just one less person to deal with) but your brand doesn't increase in stature. You had a chance to bring some of your original magic to the table (after all, it's that magic that got you started) but all you did was bully the competitors out of the way.
On the other hand, if you extend your brand because the new offering is better, magical in the way you can make it magical, then you've dramatically increased not just your market share but your perception as well.
Nike and Apple sometimes fit into the second category–the iPhone and some of Nike's clothing options are clearly different/better. Starbucks did it when they launched their ice cream.
On the other hand, there are literally thousands of organizations (including non-profits) that head down the path of mediocrity by rushing to offer 57 varieties, merely to please today's shareholders, merely because they can.
- Perhaps you don't know enough
- Perhaps you don't care enough, or
- Perhaps you're unable to execute because of committees, the status quo and fear
These might be three ways to say the same thing.
The combination of fear and ignorance (two sides of the same coin) can be paralyzing.
We're bad at it. And marketers know this.
Consider: you're buying a $30,000 car and you have the option of upgrading the stereo to the 18 speaker, 100 watt version for just $500 more. Should you?
Or perhaps you're considering two jobs, one that you love and one that pays $2,000 more. Which to choose?
You are lucky enough to be able to choose between two colleges. One, the one with the nice campus and slightly more famous name, will cost your parents (and your long-term debt) about $200,000 for four years, and the other ("lesser" school) has offered you a full scholarship.
Which should you take?
In a surprisingly large number of cases, we take the stereo, even though we'd never buy a nice stereo at home, or we choose to "go with our heart because college is so important" and pick the expensive college. (This is, of course, a good choice to have to make, as most people can't possibly find the money).
Here's one reason we mess up: Money is just a number.
Comparing dreams of a great stereo (four years of driving long distances, listening to great music!) compared with the daily reminder of our cheapness makes picking the better stereo feel easier. After all, we're not giving up anything but a number.
The college case is even more clear. $200,000 is a number that's big, sure, but it doesn't have much substance. It's not a number we play with or encounter very often. The feeling about the story of compromise involving something tied up in our self-esteem, though, that feeling is something we deal with daily.
Here's how to undo the self-marketing. Stop using numbers.
You can have the stereo if you give up going to Starbucks every workday for the next year and a half. Worth it?
If you go to the free school, you can drive there in a brand new Mini convertible, and every summer you can spend $25,000 on a top-of-the-line internship/experience, and you can create a jazz series and pay your favorite musicians to come to campus to play for you and your fifty coolest friends, and you can have Herbie Hancock give you piano lessons and you can still have enough money left over to live without debt for a year after you graduate while you look for the perfect gig…
Suddenly, you're not comparing "this is my dream," with a number that means very little. You're comparing one version of your dream with another version.
Unaddressed, it compounds into frustration.
And frustration is the soul killer, the destroyer of worker and customer relationships, loyalty and progress.
The solution is pretty simple: address the unhappiness. Change the system or talk about the problem or acknowledge it if that's all that can be done. None of this can happen, though, unless there's communication.
Most open door policies are window dressing. Most, "is everything okay with your dinner?" is rote. True communication, actual intention (and action) in digging deeper, is difficult work. If it doesn't feel like you're working at it, you're probably not doing it right.
Venture capital, marketing and pop culture are largely about pattern matching. Something happens, something else happens and it's the beginning of a trend.
Some people (like Clive Davis and Fred Wilson, to pick two) see the trends before others, often without being able to verbalize them.
If you are around people who are able to understand these things before you are, it's worthwhile to call yourself on it, and see if you can get into some discussions about what they see that you don't. I get particularly restless if it's obvious that there's something going on but I can't see it. I can't move on until I see it too.
The more often you match patterns, the better you get.
Our lives are lived in compartments, like panels in a cartoon strip.
Where you sit and when you leave and how you walked in–they are all markers, ways we space things out. Walking into the doctor's office or the principal's office or the parole office are physical acts that change our psyche.
Don't underestimate the power of having a customer walk into the dressing room or on stage or to the cash register. Don't forget that as soon as your audience walked into the conference room, they changed.
One way to change the story, then, is to change the markers. To move people from one spot to another when you want them to change their attitude (inside the movie theatre is very different from the popcorn-sales counter in the lobby).
I'm serious. Get up and move. Start fresh. [Bonus: the cartoon version!]
Did you wake up fresh today, a new start, a blank slate with resources and opportunities… or is today yet another day of living out the narrative you've been engaged in for years?
For all of us, it's the latter. We maintain our worldview, our biases, our grudges and our affections. We nurse our grudges and see the very same person (and situation) in the mirror today that we did yesterday. We may have a tiny break, a bit of freshness, but no, there's no complete fresh start available to us.
Marketers have been using this persistence to their advantage forever. They sell us a car or a trip or a service that fits the story we tell ourselves. I don't buy it because it's the right thing for everyone, I buy it because it's right for me, the us I invented, the I that's part of the story I've been telling myself for a long time.
The socialite walks into the ski shop and buys a $3000 ski jacket she'll wear once. Why? Not because she'll stay warmer in it more than a different jacket, but because that's what someone like her does. It's part of her story. In fact, it's easier for her to buy the jacket than it is to change her story.
If you went to bed as a loyal company man or an impatient entrepreneur or as the put-upon retiree or the lady who lunches, chances are you woke up that way as well. Which is certainly safe and easy and consistent and non-confusing. But is it helping?
We dismiss the mid-life crisis as an aberration to be avoided or ridiculed, as a dangerous blip in a consistent narrative. But what if we had them all the time? What if we took the resources and trust and momentum that helps us but decided to let the other stuff go?
It's painful to even consider giving up the narrative we use to navigate our life. We vividly remember the last time we made an investment that didn't match our self-story, or the last time we went to the 'wrong' restaurant or acted the 'wrong' way in a sales call. No, that's too risky, especially now, in this economy.
So we play it safe and go back to our story.
The truth though, is that doing what you've been doing is going to get you what you've been getting. If the narrative is getting in the way, if the archetypes you've been modeling and the worldview you've been nursing no longer match the culture, the economy or your goals, something's got to give.
When decisions roll around–from what to have for breakfast, to whether or not to make that investment to what TV show (or none) to watch on TV tonight, the question to ask is: Is this a reflex that's part of my long-told story, or is this actually a good decision? When patterns in engagments with the people around you become well-worn and ineffective, are they persistent because they have to be, or because the story demands it?