It's pretty clear that the design of the egg carton isn't going to change the flavor of the omelette.
Except, of course, it does.
It does because people can't judge the eggs until they eat them, but they can judge the packaging in the store. And if they choose someone else's product, you never get a chance.
Not only that, but the placebo effect creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. We like what we liked. The customer would rather be proven right than proven wrong.
That's why it's so important to understand the worldview and biases of the person you seek to influence, to connect with, to delight. And why the semiotics and stories we produce matter so much more than we imagine.
It's not always fair or right or efficient that we need to worry about how we and our work will be judged. Until we come up with a better way to communicate what we've done, though, prepare to be judged in advance.
New technology demands something important to move from early-adopter novelty to widely embraced tool:
Examples and stories and use cases that describe benefits we can't live without.
The beauty of examples is that they can travel further and faster than the item itself. The story of an example is enough to open the door of imagination, to get 1,000 or 1 million copycat stories to enter the world soon after.
Email had plenty of examples, early and often. Stories about email helped us see that it would save time and save money, help us reach through the bureaucracy, save time and cycle faster. It took just a few weeks for stories of email to spread through business school when I was there, more than thirty years ago.
On the other hand, it took a long time for the story of the mobile phone to be deeply understood. For years, it was seen as a phone without wires, not a supercomputer that would change the way a billion people interact.
Most of the stories of Bitcoin haven't been about the blockchain. They've been about speculators, winning and losing fortunes. And most of the stories of 3-D printers have been about printing small, useless toys, including little pink cacti. And most of the stories about home drones have been about peeping toms and cool videos you can watch after other people make them.
Choose your stories carefully.
Seven urgent words that are rarely uttered.
The profound question that clueless marketers almost never consider.
The words we imagine we'll tell the boss, the neighbors, our spouse after we make a change or take an action… this drives the choices that constitute our culture, it's the secret thread that runs through just about everything we do.
She's not a myth.
Some marketers generate ten times (or a hundred times) as much value as a typical marketing person. How come?
- The 10x marketer understands that the job isn't to do marketing the way the person before you did it, or the way your boss asked you to do it. Strategic marketing comes from questioning the tactics, understanding who you are seeking to change and being willing to re-imagine the story your organization tells. Don't play the game, change the game.
- The 10x marketer doesn't fold in the face of internal opposition.
These two points are essential and easily overlooked. If you are merely doing your job and also working hard to soothe all constituencies, it's almost certain that your efforts (no matter how well-intentioned or skilled) will not create ten times as much value as a typical marketer would.
This means that an organization that isn't getting 10x marketing needs to begin by blaming itself (for not asking the right question and for not supporting someone who answers the other question). 10x marketers are made, not born, and half the battle is creating a platform where one can work.
Beyond that, the 10x marketer embraces two apparently contradictory paths:
- Persistence in the face of apathy. Important marketing ideas are nearly always met with skepticism or hostility, from co-workers, from critics and from the market. Showing up, again and again, with confidence and generosity, is the best response.
- The willingness to quit what isn't working. Sometimes the marketer faces a dip that must be survived, but the 10x marketer is also engaged enough to know the difference between that dip and a dead end that has no hope.
Not every project needs a 10x marketer. If you sell a commodity (or something you treat like a commodity) it'll almost never happen. But if 10x is what you're hoping for, learn to dance.
Occasionally, people in power come to the conclusion that doubt is a problem.
They conflate confidence with certainty.
Along the way, things worked out for them. They had a willingness to leap, some lucky breaks and a lot of hard work. So they seduce themselves with the black and white dichotomy of certainty. Because, after all, they were certain and look what happened. It all worked out.
Certainty is a form of hiding. It is a way of drowning out our fear, but it's also a surefire way to fail to see what's really happening around us.
If you're certain, you're probably not prepared for the unexpected, and sooner or later, you're going to be badly surprised.
People without doubt aren't looking hard enough.
As you get better at your job, people will ask for feedback.
The most powerful feedback is based on data and experience. "Actually, no, we shouldn't put the Crockpots on sale, because every time we run a promo our Crockpot sales have been dwindling, and anyway, the big online store still sells them for less than we do."
These are facts, things we can look up and argue about whether they matter.
It's also interesting to get feedback based on testable hypotheses: "No, I don't think you should call it that, because many of our customers will assume you mean a form of marijuana."
This is only your opinion so far, but without too much trouble, we can dig in and find out if your take on it is widely held.
But often, people will show you something where facts and hypotheses aren't really germane. "Should we paint the door of the building beige or red?" In moments like this, there are three ways to be helpful:
a. You can acknowledge that this is a matter of taste, find out what the boss likes and let her own the decision.
b. You can engage in a dialogue with the boss about what her strategy is when making this decision. Bring facts and data to the table. A thoughtful dialogue with a rational, trusted colleague can open all sorts of doors in decision making.
c. You can acknowledge that your opinion is an opinion, and not try to make it sound like a fact or even a testable hypothesis. "Boss, the logo choice is always a crap shoot, but at first glance, my uninformed opinion is that it's too garish."
All three of these approaches make it far more likely that your fact-based feedback and hypotheses are taken more seriously next time.
[Today's the day that bestselling author Al Pittampalli's book, Persuadable, launches. His new book is a big deal, a research-based, practical guide to help us understand that people who change their minds are actually the most likely to change the world. A must read. Al keeps challenging our perceptions and helping us make a difference with our work.]
That doesn't mean that there isn't value in shoveling someone's walk.
Most things will get addressed sooner or later.
What happens if you take the side of sooner?
The naysayers will share plenty of reasons not to stick your neck out.
There are good reason to ignore those skeptics: Because it matters. Because we need your leadership. Because now is better than later.
Sometimes I'll get a great idea for a post while out walking or showering or generally not in front of a keyboard. Not just great ideas, but fabulous ones.
And then, after rehearsing the keywords over and over so I don't forget before I write it down, I forget.
And that post, the post I didn't write, the post that never saw the light of day–that's the best post ever.
I think most dreams work this way.
The thing is, an unwritten post is no post at all. It's merely a little bit of gossamer on wings of hope. Doesn't count.
The only good posts are the ones I've written.
I think most dreams work this way, too.
This is a choice, a huge one in the life of the freelancer, the entrepreneur or anyone who seeks to engage with the marketplace.
The customer buys (or doesn't buy) what you make.
The client asks you to make something.
The customer has the power to choose, but the client has the power to define, insist and spec.
There is a large number of potential customers, and you make for them before you know precisely who they are.
There are just a relative handful of clients, though, and your work happens after you find them.
If a customer doesn't like what's on offer, she can come back tomorrow. If the client doesn't like what you deliver, she might leave forever.
You can do great work for either.
But don't confuse them.
Choose your customers. Choose your clients.
And most of all, choose which category you're serving.
[Worth noting: Software and the internet let us disrupt a market by transforming clients into customers and customers into clients. People who used to have to take what was an offer can now get a customized version almost as easily. And people who used to pay extra for the bespoke version can now have the convenience and economy of merely buying what's on offer.]
"Across our 100 locations, sales on average are up 3% last month."
This tells you exactly nothing.
It turns out that ten of the outlets each saw their sales double, while most of the other ones are stagnating or even decreasing in sales. That's the insight.
Averages almost always hide insights instead of exposing them. If the problem is interesting enough to talk about, it's interesting enough to show the true groupings and differences that the average is hiding.
Here's what's worth discussing instead: What are the outliers? What do they have in common? Are there explainable trends, or is there merely noise?
The hard part about telling the truth with numbers often isn't finding the truth. It's having the guts to share the truth.