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The easiest and the best

The easiest customers to get are almost never the best ones.

If you're considering word of mouth, stability and lifetime value, it's almost always true that the easier it is to get someone's attention, the less it's worth.

Selling to people who haven’t bought yet

The portion of the population that haven't bought from you or your competition yet is not waiting for a better mousetrap.

They're not busy considering a, b and c and then waiting for d.

No, they're not in the market. They don't believe that they have a problem that's worth the time and money they think it's going to take to solve it.

As a result, smart marketers don't market to this audience by saying, "hey, ours is better than theirs!"

If this group thought that they had a solvable problem, the would have solved it already.

No, they won't respond to a better-than-them pitch. Instead, they're much more likely to respond to a new statement of their problem and a new statement of the solution. Don't ask them to announce that they were wrong when they decided that they didn't need a tablet, a survival kit or an anti-impotence drug. Instead, make it easy for them to make a new decision based on new information.

Ticket update for May 16

The premium tickets for my NY gig have already sold out and there are no more student tickets either. Sorry to disappoint.

Early Bird tickets end on Sunday, the 22nd. And the six-pack remains your best buy. All the details are here. Thanks.

Bandits and philanthropists

The web is minting both, in quantity.

Bandits want something for nothing. They take. They take free content where they can find it. They fight for anonymity, for less community involvement. They want more than their fair share, and they walk past the busker, because they can hear him playing real good, for free.

The spammer is a bandit, stealing your attention because he can get away with it, and leaving nothing in return.

Philanthropists see a platform for giving. They support the tip jar. They argue for community standards and yes, for taxes that are more fair to the community. They support artists online, and when they can, they buy the book.

The artist who creates a video that touches you, or an infographic that informs you–she's giving more than she gets, leaving the community better than it was before she got there.

Both types have been around forever, of course. But the web magnifies the edges. It's easier than ever to be a free rider, to make your world smaller and to take. And easier than ever to be a big time contributor, even if you don't have any money. You can contribute your links or your attention or your energy…

The fascinating thing for me is how much more successful and happy the philanthropists are. It turns out that when you make the world smaller, you get to keep more of what you've got, but you end up earning a lot less (respect, connections, revenue) at the same time.

Two ways to buy the expensive

Buying something like a house, a piece of fine art, a used car or a business is as much a marketing exercise as selling that very item might be.

There are two common approaches. The first is to denigrate.

Explain that the seller has bad taste. That the car isn't in good shape. That the art was poorly selected for the resale market. Poke holes in the business model, the management team or the landscaping design.

Better still, make the seller feel as though she's on thin ice. Bring an exploding offer to the table and watch her squirm as it goes down in value from day to day. Point to others that have waited too long to sell and how they ended up regretting it. Question her values and her judgment.

In other words, go for the win, where winning is defined as getting a great price.

There are two problems with this approach. The first, and the biggest, is that anything you truly want to buy probably has multiple buyers interested, and with better information available every day, the best stuff is going to be sold to someone else. Your denigration strategy is going to inevitably limit your pool of available items to sellers with self-esteem or desperation issues.

The second problem is that the word spreads. Your gallery or your buyout fund or your dealership quickly earns a reputation (there's that marketing thing again) as the buyer of last resort, once again creating an environment where your approach determines what's available to you.

The alternative is to respect and to communicate. After all, you're here to buy something–I'm guessing that's because you think it's worth something more than you're willing to pay for it. So value the judgment and taste of the seller. Be clear about what you like about it, be honest about the value that's been created. Even better, instead of coming in high and then figuring out ways to bully and lower your offer, come in low and enjoy the process of bidding it up, making the seller root for you and look forward to hearing from you. (This is particularly useful when making an investment where you want management to be happy with you after the deal is done).

In a fair market, it's entirely likely you'll end up paying precisely what you would have paid using the other method, but you'll be offered more works, more stuff worth paying for, and your reputation will reflect that. Most of all it's important to understand that we're not talking about bushels of wheat. Very little is a commodity, and the method you use to buy your expensive item may be even more important than how much you pay.

“I was just kidding”

The haute couture designer who brings out a few designs that look like they came from a truck stop.

The fancy chef who sends out a chocolate-dipped Oreo as part of dessert.

The book designer who uses Comic Sans as the type on the cover of a prize-winning novel…

In each case, they can get away with it because we know they're capable of so much more. In each case, the irony is apparent, they're not hacks–they're only pretending to be hacks.

Before your digital work is shipped, you need to understand whether people will look at your blog or your lens or your ebook or your landing page and say, "hack," or "wow." It takes a while before you can claim your LOLcat or bizarre tweet was just a joke, not the acme of your taste.

Come to New York on May 16th (Pick Yourself)

For the first time in a long time, I'm doing an all-day public event. It's not something I do often, and I hope you'll consider coming.

[If you know someone who might benefit, I'd appreciate it if you would forward or tweet this post].

I'm calling it Pick Yourself and it's the culmination of months of preparation. It won't be webcast or recorded, as we've tried to create something that works best precisely because it's live–not just as a result of what I'm saying on stage, but due to the people you meet and sit next to and connect with over your challenges and projects and dreams.

Digital scales, of course, because it spreads effortlessly and without cost. Real life, alas, doesn't work that way. What we've tried to do is create an event that's better precisely because you came, because you're in the room, because someone on a similar journey is sitting next to you. A beautiful big theatre filled with intimate one on one connections.

Assembling a group of six (friends, colleagues or strangers) makes it even more likely that you'll come to the event ready to share and scheme and plan, taking action after it's over.

If you're interested in coming, please read all the details and be sure to get your confirmation after you've registered in order to join the exclusive online community we're building for attendees.

You can discover the details of the event right here.

Early bird and group tickets are significantly less expensive than regular tickets will be in a week, so if you're interested, I hope you'll grab it now.

See you in Tribeca.

All artists are self-taught

Techniques and skill and even a point of view are often handed down, formally or not. It's easier to get started if you're taught, of course.

But art, the new, the ability to connect the dots and to make an impact–sooner or later, that can only come from one who creates, not from a teacher and not from a book.

Lessons from Caine’s Arcade

Maybe you've seen this short film.

The first thing that made me smile was how willing Caine was to do his art regardless of how the world responded (it didn't). Caine didn't care. The goal wasn't to be accepted, the goal was to do it right.

The second extraordinary thing is easy to miss. Around 3:30, you learn Caine's folk-arithmetic trick of using square roots to validate the PIN numbers on each fun pass. Extraordinary.

And the third? Starting around the nine-minute mark, any entrepreneur with a heart is going to shed a few tears. In the immortal words of Caine Monroy, "and I thought they were here for me, and they were."

Money scales but emotions around money don’t

You're not half as annoyed when you get a $25 parking ticket as you are when the fine is $50.

An investment banker isn't twice as excited about a $20 million bonus as she is about a $10 million one.

There are threshholds that determine how we feel about money-related events (good and bad), but beyond those threshholds, the relationships get all out of whack. Being a million dollars in debt feels about the same as being five million in the hole.

The way you feel about more (or less) of something probably doesn't rise or fall based on how much it cost to produce that feeling.

Marketers and organizations and the less emotional use this fact against us all the time. They understand that while the utility curve for money for a single individual can change widely over time, the value of that money to the organization is largely linear.