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The Dip

Ten years ago, in 2007, I published a book called The Dip. I chronicled much of the launch and some of the lessons of the book in this limited-edition blog.

Since its publication, it has sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world. It was a NY Times bestseller for four weeks, and people tell me that page for page, it changed them more than any other book I’ve written.

I’ve kept the blog as is, a time capsule of that idea, one that still resonates…

This is my blog about my new book, The Dip.

Updates and news and riffs are on the posts below. A podcast, here. The charts are here.

The Dip

The Best in the World imperative

Ultimately, The Dip is a marketing book, because the thesis is that being seen as best in the world, whatever ‘best’ and whatever ‘world’ means, is the single greatest contributor to success in marketing. There are three reasons why this is more important than ever:

SELECTION: Getting into Harvard or being crowned Miss America are valuable achievements for just one reason: they make it easy for everyone to see you won. Someone adds value by performing a selection process, and the lucky ones who get picked, the anointed, win. The marketplace values this because we’re too busy to do the selecting ourselves.

ACCESS: Because of the web, we don’t have to limit our choices to the Yellow Pages or who’s nearby or who was recommended by a friend. As a result, with far more choices, we can pick the very best choice, not the most convenient one.

PYRAMIDS: Many systems only work when there are a lot of entries but just a few winners. Whether it’s the US Open or the economics of the local gym, it’s the effort and expense of the non-winners that supports the benefits of the winners. These pyramids are getting more common because of the winner-take-all nature of our world. Digg wouldn’t work if there were only a few stories a day submitted. It’s the stories that don’t make the front page that make the front page winners succeed.

The Dip

Where does hypercompetition come from?

The candidates for president have already raised more than a hundred million dollars. After only three months. Every single one of the top five candidates demolished the record set eight years ago.

The reason is simple: once a market gets understood, the desire to be the winner in a winner takes all event encourages people to up the ante.

Imagine playing poker with a bunch of kids. If you give each kid $200 in fake chips and play no-limit, they start betting with $1 or maybe $5 bets. Pretty soon, though, one of the kids will figure out that if he bets all his money, he can make an impact, and perhaps eliminate the other players. Without the risk of losing real money, he instantly goes to 11 on the impact meter. Everyone else follows suit. Hypercompetitiveness.

During the first dot com boom, it became clear after a year or two that the company that could lose the most money the fastest (while attracting some metric… traffic, customers, whatever) would be deemed the winner by Wall Street. Hence the rapid success of theglobe.com, the debacle of pets.com and the insanely high price paid for bluemountainarts. It’s not rational, but it’s true.

As the internet makes it easier for people to keep score of market share, bestseller lists and more, the benefits to being seen as #1 continue to increase. Which means that this trend to being hypercompetitive, whether or not its rational, is going to get more and more common.

The long term hasn’t gone away. Not at all. Winning in the long run is far more important. At the same time, it’s essential to note that many markets have set up short-term screens that make it impossible to survive in the long run if you’re not seen as a possible market leader (the best in the world) early on.

The Dip

New venue for Dip Tour: Chicago (and maybe Phoenix)

I’ll be in Chicago on May 22nd. Click here for the sign up and here for the lens about it. This event is sponsored by WBBM Newsradio 780, Visa, Aetna, Verizon Wireless, Plante & Moran, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Crain’s Chicago Business, Maggiano’s Little Italy, Women and Children First bookstore. That’s a lot of sponsors…

And Matt came up with a very neat idea. If you want to go to Phoenix for an event, he’s challenging you to pledge that you’ll come if we do one. Worth a shot…

The Dip

What’s the Dip?

Ten years ago, in 2007, I published a book called The Dip. I chronicled much of the launch and some of the lessons of the book in this limited-edition blog.

Since its publication, it has sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world. It was a NY Times bestseller for four weeks, and people tell me that page for page, it changed them more than any other book I've written.

I've kept the blog as is, a time capsule of that idea, one that still resonates…


This is my blog about my new book, The Dip.

Updates and news and riffs are on the posts below. A podcast, here. The charts are here.

The Dip

The horrible reality of college admissions

Are fifteen-year-old kids too young to deal with the Dip?

Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs, Colo., Jessica Clayton scored
1540 out of 1600 on her SATs, aced five advanced-placement courses last
semester, volunteers two days a month at a middle school, works after school at
a smoothie shop, is on the varsity Lacrosse team and runs cross country.

But she worried that wasn’t enough: An Ivy League recruiter
told her about a rival applicant who composed harp music, recorded the
compositions and sold the CDs for charity. "I don’t even play the harp," says
Ms. Clayton. "There are kids who have sent up satellites that have orbited the
Earth. At my school, I’m pretty average."

Sonya points us to this article about the cruel reality of college admissions. I happen to think that almost all of it is money-driven, insecurity-fueled foolishness, a bogus nexus of lies, fears and greed, but more on that later.

For right now, the key lesson is this: colleges (the most coveted ones, anyway) are picky. That means they have a choice. And given a choice, they always do the same thing: they pick the best in the world. It’s quite a Dip, one that most students ought to reject in my opinion. Instead, egged on by guidance counselors with a vested interest and parents who mean well but don’t see the problem, they throw themselves into the system, almost certain to get stuck in the Dip instead of playing a different game altogether.

The opportunity for 95% of the student body is this: reject the idea of being almost good enough to get in to Harvard and embrace the idea of being extraordinarily good at something else.

The Dip

The Dip Tour

I’m trying something new this May.

Usually, when authors tour, they trudge from bookstore to bookstore. It’s grinding and a little demeaning (here’s a tip: if you see an author in a bookstore, don’t go near him unless you’re prepared to buy the book (or at least hide it somewhere in the store.)) The whole interaction isn’t very pleasant for the reader either.

Well, I love to do speaking gigs, but rarely get the chance to do events that are open to the public and relatively inexpensive. So I figured I’d combine both.

Here’s the deal. (Details are here). In each city I’m able to get to, if you buy 5 books (in advance), you get to come hear me give a speech for free. OR, if you prefer to think of it differently, if you pay $50 to hear me speak, you get five books for free.

Why five books? So you’ll give four away. That’s why I wrote the book. So you would buy copies and give them away. You register online, you pay in advance, you’re guaranteed a seat and you’re guaranteed your copies, available when you show up. We can’t do refunds, because the books are a pain to move around, so please be sure you can come when you sign up.

Which cities? So far, just Philly. UPDATE: We just added Chicago.

More to follow soon, I hope. If you have a very large network or a very large organization in a city in the US (sorry, too much travel to go overseas), drop me a line if you’d like to discuss running an event in your town. The minimum is 500 people, though. [let me reclarify: you need to get the books through a special link, not from just any store… and, I will be posting new cities, very soon! Promise.] If it works, I’ll tell you. If it doesn’t, I’ll tell you. Either way, it’ll be interesting way to meet a lot of readers and get books into the hands of people motivated to give them away!

The Dip

Just because they moved the dip…

…doesn’t mean it’s gone.

The music business used to be simple. You gigged and prayed and waited and hoped that Berry Gordy would give you a contract. Once you had a record label, you were in. The Dip was early and steep.

Now, of course, making a record is trivial. A laptop and some microphones and you’re in. No permission needed.

And making a music video is a lot easier. And who needs MTV if you can get it on YouTube.

Hence the problem. Before, there were thousands of frustrated musicians with no record, no promotion and no Clive Davis. Now, there are thousands of frustrated musicians with a lot more at stake. They’ve got recordings and CDs and videos and MySpace pages but they’re still not successful.

It doesn’t feel fair. It’s not. It’s the Dip.

The Dip is what separates a hit from a non-hit. And the irony is that without the Dip, it would be useless to try to succeed in pop music. Without a chasm that separates the hits from everyone else, the hits aren’t worth anything.

Embracing the Dip, not cursing it, is the only way to stay sane (and become successful).

The Dip

What the General knew

Seymour Hersch quotes the late General John D. Lavelle on Vietnam,

"Hey, either fight it or quit, but let’s not waste all the money and the lives the way we are doing it."

Stuck in another Dip.

The Dip

Was Google right to be so sure of themselves?

Chris Anderson has very nice things to say about The Dip. In his post, he wonders about a quote I related from Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. Sergey said,

"We knew that Google was going to get better every
single day as we worked on it, and we knew that sooner or later,
everyone was going to try it. So our feeling was that the later you
tried it, the better it was for us because we’d made a better
impression with better technology. So we were never in a big hurry to
get you to use it today. Tomorrow would be better."

In return, Chris says,

The problem with
extrapolating marketing lessons from once-in-a-lifetime success stories
like Google and Apple is that most of us aren’t Jobs, Brin or Page, nor
can we count on the luck that played a role on all of their successes.
Products that market themselves are ideal, of course, but there aren’t
many of them. And even those that are don’t always reveal themselves as
such at the start.

Here’s the thing: When Sergey said this, Google wasn’t legendary and he wasn’t a billionaire. When he said it, Google was just a well-funded startup with a plan. And the plan was to confront the Dip. While other startups were playing it safe, being defensive and watching the cash, Google made a decision: do this to get through the Dip or don’t do it at all.

Ironically, Chris made similar decisions with The Long Tail. It would have been easy to publish this book as a normal business book. And it would have hit the wall. Chris embraced the Dip that faces every book and acted instead like his book was surely going to be a record-breaking bestseller. His actions made it likely the book would either fail miserably or succeed magnificently.

As a result of Google’s decision, they made counter-intuitive decisions. No ads, for example. No clutter. No popups, no tricky interpretations of privacy policies. Instead, every decision was, "If this is going to be the one and only choice, the best search engine in the world, what should we do?" The feeling was, if they built that, the money would take care of itself. And the investors who bought in were in on the game from the start.

Did they get lucky? You bet. Did it seem arrogant? Sure. But my point is that if they hadn’t made those decisions, they would have certainly failed. They would have had no chance to get lucky in the first place if they hadn’t embraced the Dip and organized to get through it. I think if you plan on a once-in-a-lifetime success story, it’s a lot more likely to happen to you.

The Dip

A few free galleys

Sometime in the next few weeks, Allison is going to be mailing out a number of galleys (pre-production paperback review copies) to bloggers. If you’ve got a blog, if you think your readers might want a review and you’d be willing to take a look at The Dip, drop Allison an email. Let her know what you write about and be sure to include your mailing address.

No promises, of course, but hopefully she’ll be able to get a number of copies out in April. [Yikes, they’re all gone. That was quick.]