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Getting over ourselves

In the face of billions of dollars of destruction, of the loss of life, of families distrupted, it's easy to wonder what we were so hung up on just a few days ago. Many just went face to face with an epic natural disaster, and millions are still recovering. Writer's block or a delayed shipment or an unreturned phone call seem sort of trivial now.

We're good at creating drama, at avoiding emotional labor and most of all, at thinking small. Maybe we don't need another meeting, a longer coffee break or another hour whittling away at our stuckness.

There's never been a better opportunity to step up and make an impact, while we've got the chance. This generation, this decade, right now, there are more opportunities to connect and do art than ever before. Maybe even today.

It's pretty easy to decide to roll with the punches, to look at the enormity of natural disaster and choose to hunker down and do less. It's more important than ever, I think, to persist and make a dent in the universe instead.

We've all been offered access to so many tools, so many valuable connections, so many committed people. What an opportunity.

Harvest demand or create it?

Search marketing harvests demand, it doesn't create it (ht to Drew at Dropbox).

Most small businesses believe that they're too small to have an impact on the whole market, so they resort to picking the fruit that's already grown instead of planting their own seeds. It's far easier to wait until someone is ready to buy than it is to persuade them to buy.

Except the answer isn't to poach demand at the last minute. The answer is to redefine the market into something much smaller and more manageable. You don't need to persuade everyone that you have a great idea, you merely need to persuade one person. And then make it easy for that person to share.

One last semi-related thought: Wenda Millard quotes a Mercedes Benz exec, "If the only time I show you a Mercedes ad is just before you're about to buy a fancy car, I've lost." The fact is, advertising to build brand and recognition and demand is a very long-term proposition, not something you measure with clicks.

A last-minute swipe of purchase intent is a tactical win. It's not, however, a long-term way to build your organization.


Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with.

And the collisions and the dreams lead to your changes.

And the changes are what you become.

Change the outcome by changing your circle.

The bell curve is moving (mass geekery)

We've got more nerds than ever before.

Rogers famously described the ways products are adopted:


On the left, geeks and nerds and people who love stuff because the new is new and edgy and changes things. All the way to the right, the laggards, the ones who want to be the last to change. And in the middle, the masses, the ones who wait for the new idea to be proven, cheap and widely adopted. Most people are in the middle, and a few are on either edge. (Note that in every area of interest, different people put themselves into different segments. You might be a shoe geek but a movie laggard).

Marketers work to change the market. And for the last thirty years, marketers have been working to turn people into geeks, into people eager to try the new. And it's working.


There are more and more people lining up to buy the new gadget, more exploring the edges of the internet, more willing to engage in ways that were seen as too risky just a generation ago.

In addition to an ever increasing amount of media and advertising about what's new, the products and services themselves are designed to draw us in. It used to be that a car nerd would buy a new car every year while the laggard could wait a decade quite happily before upgrading. Today, because our software connects, the upgrade cycle is built in. Like it or not, the new version (or the new TOS or the new interaction style) is about to become part of your life.

The cultural implications here are significant. We now live in a society with more people more willing to change more often. And that means your customers are restless, and more likely to walk away if you don't treat them the way nerds want to be treated. Amaze, delight and challenge…

The end of should

Banks should close at 4, books should be 200 pages long, CEOs should go to college, blogs should have comments, businessmen should be men, big deals should be done by lawyers, good food should be processed, surgeons should never advertise, hit musicians should be Americans, good employees should work at the same company for years…

Find your should and make it go away.

A bias for trust

Two very simple truths:

a. Don't waste your time initiating relationships that aren't going to thrive and benefit both sides.

b. Productive connection requires mutual trust. You can't empathize with someone you don't trust.

If you enter an engagement filled with wariness, alert for the scam, the inauthentic and the selfish, you'll poison the relationship before it even starts. Those you deal with won't be challenged to rise to your expectations of excitement and goodwill. Instead, they'll struggle in the face of your skepticism.

Instead of seeking and amplifying the sharp edges, consider focusing on the dignity and goodwill of the people you're working with.

Sure, there are people out there who will disappoint you. But expecting to be ripped off poisons all your interactions instead of saving you from a few dead ends.

An open mind and an open heart usually lead to precisely that in those that you are about to deal with. Perhaps we should give people a chance to live up to our trust instead of looking for the gotcha.


The only purpose of ‘customer service’…

is to change feelings. Not the facts, but the way your customer feels. The facts might be the price, or a return, or how long someone had to wait for service. Sometimes changing the facts is a shortcut to changing feelings, but not always, and changing the facts alone is not always sufficient anyway.

If a customer service protocol (your call center/complaints department/returns policy) is built around stall, deny, begrudge and finally, to the few who persist, acquiesce, then it might save money, but it is a total failure.

The customer who seeks out your help isn't often looking to deplete your bank account. He is usually seeking validation, support and a path to feeling the way he felt before you let him down.

The best measurement of customer support is whether, after the interaction, the customer would recommend you to a friend. Time on the line, refunds given or the facts of the case are irrelevant. The feelings are all that matter, and changing feelings takes humanity and connection, not cash.

Free range

Ways to improve your performance:

  • Compete for a prize
  • Earn points
  • Please a demanding boss
  • Make someone else's imminent deadline
  • Face sudden death elimination in the playoffs
  • Wear a heart monitor and track performance publicly
  • Go head-to-head against a determined foe

The thing is, all of these external stimuli are there to raise your game and push you ever harder. They are fences to be leaped, opponents to be defeated.

The alternative is to compete against nothing but yourself. To excel merely because the act of excelling without boundaries or incentives thrills you.

And the good news is that once you find that, you'll always have it.

Toward a mobile app for this blog

[Update: 40 developers–all I can review–already applied. Thank you!]

Every few days, someone asks for a new mobile app for the blog. I've been ducking the issue for a while, because I'd like it to be something worth using, but I don't have a passionate or commercial interest in creating one–it's not a focus of mine. But it's time.

One approach is to just license my RSS feed to anyone who wants to build an app around it. I'm hesitating to do that, because if it has my name on it, I'd like it to be reliable, and the app store makes it hard to tell the good ones from the not so good. So I thought I'd ask developers if they'd like to take this on, and what they'd like to do if they did. We might end up with two or three approved apps that you could choose from. They might end up being free or costing money. We'll see. My goal is for it to be easy for you to use and really headache-free for me to create.

If you're a developer and you'd like to suggest yourself for this project, here's a simple form to fill out.  Please don't email me about it, but I promise to review the first forty applications I receive. Deadline is November 2, and as usual, extra points for being early.

Everybody knows everything

William Goldman famously pointed out that before Hollywood releases a picture, nobody knows anything about how it's going to do. It's such a black art that there are no real clues, yet every self-important exec acts as though he's an expert. It's easy to pretend expertise when there's no data to contradict you.

The internet and the connected economy turn much of that on its head. Now, in many fields, you have to assume that everyone knows (or can easily know) everything.

Relying on the ignorance of a motivated audience isn't a long-term strategy.