How Avatar followed the Seth Godin playbook to $1B in 17 days

Last night I went to watch Avatar with my younger brother, Tim. The first theater was sold out so we yelled to everyone still streaming in and we all quickly drove to the next closest theater, 10 miles away.

Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the film. There are no real spoilers below, just how Avatar followed Seth Godin’s marketing advice to create a blockbuster movie that has already grossed over $1 billion dollars worldwide in just 17 days.

1) Remarkable Matters


Seth Godin wrote Purple Cow in 2003. Those who read it and followed the advice have reaped rewards. Avatar is “remarkable”, defined by Seth simply as something worth remarking on. I’m not a huge moviegoer – maybe average or slightly below – but more than fifty people had remarked about Avatar to me, either in person or online. People whose opinion I respect raved about it on twitter.

I didn’t go see Avatar because I saw a great preview, commercial or billboard. I went because people I trust remarked on it.

When a product is remarkable, it markets itself.

2) In a world of unlimited choice, it’s more important than ever to be the best in the world


In The Dip, Seth Godin writes about strategic quitting and the importance of being the best in the world.

Most studios wouldn’t take a chance on making a $237 million film whose biggest star is Sigourney Weaver.

They did because the man behind the entire operation (writer, director, producer) is James Cameron, arguably the best in the world at what he does. His previous film, Titanic, was the largest grossing film ever – grossing $1.84 billion dollars, 68% more than Lord of the Rings at $1.13 billion.

You don’t have to be James Cameron, but you do have to be the best in the world at what you do (or one of the best). The good news is, you get to define the world. You could be the best plumber in Omaha, Nebraska. You could be the best hiking guide in Colorado. You could be the best blogger about coffee.

Define your world and then work to be the best.

3) Tribes

Titanic appealed to the tribe of history buffs. Avatar appealed to a few different tribes, but specifically to the science fiction tribe. Any self-identified member of the sci-fi tribe will see the movie and they will talk about it. Some will go with other members of the sci-fi tribe but many will bring friends and family.

Sci-fi was a specific tribe that Avatar reached.

4) Free Prize Inside


In Free Prize Inside, Seth explains the importance of “soft innovations”.

Soft innovations are the clever, insightful, useful small ideas that just about anyone in an organization can think up. Soft innovations can make your product into a Purple Cow, they can make it remarkable. They do this by solving a problem that’s peripheral to what your product is ostensibly about. It’s a second reason to buy the thing, and perhaps a first reason to talk about it. It may seem like a gimmick, but soon, what seems like a gimmick becomes an essential element in your product or service.

Avatar is being shown in 2D and in 3D. Olivier Blanchard and others on twitter told me that seeing it in 3D is a must. They were right and seeing the amazing visual effects in 3D gives me something else to talk about as I recommend the movie.

3D was Avatar’s Free Prize Inside.

I don’t know if James Cameron has ever met or even heard of Seth Godin. It doesn’t matter. In creating and marketing Avatar, Cameron took pages directly from Seth’s playbook.

The result? Seventeen days after release, Avatar is already the 4th highest grossing movie ever.

How can you apply these tactics to your project, business or personal brand?

Sink your ships

This post is inspired by a presentation I attended last summer by Mitch Joel, a brilliant marketer who has a wonderful blog over at Six Pixels of Separation.

Mitch told the story of legendary explorer Captain Hernando Cortés. In July 1519, Cortés and a small army left the Spanish held island of Cuba and set out on one of the greatest conquests in the history of the world.

In order to eliminate escape by some of his men still loyal to the Governor of Cuba, Cortés “scuttled” or intentionally sank his ships. Some historical accounts incorrectly claim Cortés burned the ships. The method of destruction doesn’t really matter – the point is, there was no going back.

This time of year, a lot of us are making New Year’s resolutions and trying to stick to them.

Think of Cortés and his choice to sink his ships. How can you “sink your ships” to make sure you stick to your goals?

If one of your goals is to eat better, throw away all the food in the house that doesn’t fit the healthier eating plan. (People eat what they have on hand, so healthy eating at home really happens at the grocery store.)

Are you trying to spend less or get out of debt? Cut up all your credit cards and only pay cash for discretionary purchases.

Do you want to watch less television and workout more? Sell your TV.

Do you want to travel more but find it hard to plan or take vacation at the last minute? Plan and book your vacations now and tell your friends and family. It’s unlikely you’ll cancel.

Do you want to start exploring social media for your company but don’t have the money? Cancel any ineffective traditional advertising and re-allocate the budget to finding someone to help you explore these new channels.

What are your goals? What ships you can sink?

My Three Words for 2010

Taking a cue from the forever brilliant Chris Brogan and his post today, below are my three words for 2010.

My 3 Words – Revere, Ship, Daily

My Three Words for 2010

Revere – I am not using the traditional definition of revere here, but rather a reference to Paul Revere, the revolutionary who successfully warned an entire region that the British were coming. In Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book, The Tipping Point, he illustrates why Paul Revere was successful in his famous ride (the message tipped and spread), while William Dawes, a different man trying to accomplish the same goal, was not successful.

From Gladwell’s The Tipping Point:

Paul Revere’s ride is perhaps the most famous historical example of a word-of-mouth epidemic. A piece of extraordinary news traveled a long distance in a very short time, mobilizing an entire region to arms …
At the same time that Revere began his ride north and west of Boston, a fellow revolutionary — a tanner by the name of William Dawes — set out on the same urgent errand, working his way to Lexington via the towns west of Boston. He was carrying the identical message, through just as many towns over just as many miles as Paul Revere. But Dawes’s ride didn’t set the countryside afire. The local militia leaders weren’t altered. In fact, so few men from one of the main towns he rode through — Waltham — fought the following day that some subsequent historians concluded that it must have been a strongly pro-British community. It wasn’t. The people of Waltham just didn’t find out the British were coming until it was too late. If it were only the news itself that mattered in a word-of-mouth epidemic, Dawes would now be as famous as Paul Revere. He isn’t. So why did Revere succeed where Dawes failed?
The answer is that the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts. Revere’s news tipped and Dawes’s didn’t because of the differences between the two men.
[Revere] was gregarious and intensely social. He was a fisherman and a hunter, a cardplayer and a theatre-lover, a frequenter of pubs and a successful businessman. He was active in the local Masonic Lodge and was a member of several select social clubs. He was also a doer, a man blessed — as David Hackett Fischer recounts in his brilliant book Paul Revere’s Ride — with “an uncanny genius for being at the center of events.”
It is not surprising, then, that when the British army began its secret campaign in 1774 to root out and destroy the stores of arms and ammunition held by the fledgling revolutionary movement, Revere became a kind of unofficial clearing house for the anti-British forces. He knew everybody. He was the logical one to go to if you were a stable boy on the afternoon of April 18th, 1775, and overheard two British officers talking about how there would be hell to pay on the following afternoon. Nor is it surprising that when Revere set out for Lexington that night, he would have known just how to spread the news as far and wide as possible. When he saw people on the roads, he was so naturally and irrepressibly social he would have stopped and told them. When he came upon a town, he would have known exactly whose door to knock on, who the local militia leader was, who the key players in town were. He had met most of them before. And they knew and respected him as well.
But William Dawes? Fischer finds it inconceivable that Dawes could have ridden all seventeen miles to Lexington and not spoken to anyone along the way. But he clearly had none of the social gifts of Revere, because there is almost no record of anyone who remembers him that night. “Along Paul Revere’s northern route, the town leaders and company captains instantly triggered the alarm,” Fischer writes. “On the southerly circuit of William Dawes, this did not happen until later. In at least one town it did not happen at all. Dawes did not awaken the town fathers or militia commanders in the towns of Roxbury, Brookline, Watertown or Waltham.”
Why? Because Roxbury, Brookline, Watertown and Waltham were not Boston. And Dawes was in all likelihood a man with a normal social circle, which means that — like most of us — once he left his hometown he probably wouldn’t have known whose door to knock on. Only one small community along Dawes’s ride appeared to get the message, a few farmers in a neighborhood called Waltham Farms. But alerting just those few houses wasn’t enough to “tip” the alarm.
Word-of-mouth epidemics are the work of Connectors. William Dawes was just an ordinary man.

I am a Connector by nature but in 2010, I want to up my game, meet more new people, introduce other people, earn trust, build bridges and create value. In short, I want to emulate what Paul Revere did long before his famous ride and become the type of Connector he was.

This will help me personally and it will also help me build and scale my new media consulting firm, Tribes Win.


Ship

Don't wait for perfect, just ship

I spent six months in 2009 learning more than I thought possible from one of my heroes, Seth Godin. The most important thing I learned was the importance of “shipping”.

Seth has had many successes in his prolific career but before those many successes, he had many failures. Seth’s failures paved the way for his successes. He just kept shipping (including over 3,000 blog posts over the last ten years) and eventually the projects he shipped became more and more successful. The

From when we are young, it is drilled into our head (in our education system, at home and at work) that failure is terrible and something to be avoided at all costs. Seth taught us that failing is OK and shipping is what matters.

In addition to building Tribes Win, I have a few important projects I’m working on in 2010, including fear.less, an online magazine that I’m launching with Ishita Gupta, Carpe Defect, a new blog, e-book and book that I’m writing and a new type of social game that I am developing.

I will ship these projects in 2010.

Daily

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/ferrantraite

This is a simple reminder of improving daily in two specific categories:

    Daily Sense – Post here on DailySense.com at least once every day in 2010.
    Health – Eat healthier and workout in 2010.

I have tied each of these words to a more specific set of SMART goals with dates and specific measurements of success.

Chris Brogan inspired me. Hopefully I can amplify his inspiration. Give this some thought and consider sharing your three words here or back on Chris’ original post.

Revere. Ship. Daily.

If you only read one thing this month…

…make it this free e-book from Seth Godin.

Seth has rounded up seventy big thinkers to contribute concise but brilliant one-page essays.

The simple question….

What Mattters Now?

The result is priceless and amazing.

Read it. Share it. Pick your favorite five pages and make something happen now.

What_Matters_Now

Download PDF here

Those first hours

UpEarly

When I was in junior high, my dad told me something that I’ve remembered ever since.

“Those first hours, when you wake up early, before everyone else, before the distractions begin, those will be your most productive hours of the day.”

Lately, I’ve been getting up pretty early and knocking out some important stuff before the sunlight creeps across the floor.

Thanks, Dad.

[photo credit: Jonathan Cohen]

Those who can, teach

I can see

This is often how I feel.

When I work with clients, I try hard to teach them about marketing, about customer engagement and how to listen and participate in the social web.

Some consultants prefer to do instead of teach. They are worried that if the client learns how to run everything on their own, they wouldn’t need the consultant anymore.

I would welcome that.

If I can teach my way out of a job, that means the clients are engaging with their customers and running a more successful, more social, more human business.

How can that be a bad thing?

The Space Above

Storage Unit

Having moved five times in the last six years, I’m no stranger to temporary storage units. They’re all pretty similar. You pay a monthly fee and get access to a small space to store your belongings.

When you purchase a storage unit, they are always quoted in width x depth. A 10′ x 10′ space might cost $120 / month or a 5′ x 10′ space might be $80 / month.

Here’s a little secret. The value is in the space above.

The height of the storage unit determines how much you can store. A 5′ x 10′ unit with high ceilings can store as much as a 10′ x 10′ with low ceilings. Now I always pack my items in sturdy, stackable containers.

Think about your own business or relationships. Is there ‘space above’ that you’re not utilizing?

On that long drive, instead of listening to the music, you could listen to a great audio book or catch up with that relative or old colleague you’ve been meaning to call.

On that plane ride, instead of watching the in-flight movie, you could write the business plan for your new idea or draft the first chapter to that book you’ve been meaning to write.

At home, instead of watching House reruns, you could start a blog for yourself or with your child.

Space above is everywhere. Look for it and use it.

[photo credit: merfam]

Impact Wrench

impactwrench

What did you do today?

Did those things have a direct impact on your goals?

(You do have goals, right? And you have them written down?)

Zig Ziglar has a great framework for defining and documenting your goals:

* Physical (appearance, exercise programs, medical/dental checkups, weight, nutrition).
* Family (listening habits, forgiveness, role model, supportiveness, shared time, respect, love).
* Financial (earnings, savings, investments, budget, insurance, debt).
* Social (Humor, listening habits, confidence, manners, caring).
* Spiritual (inner peace, purpose, prayer, Bible study, faith).
* Mental (imagination, attitude, education, reading, curiosity).
* Career (job satisfaction, effectiveness, training, understanding, purpose)

If the things you did today didn’t have any direct impact on your goals, why did you do them? What could you have done instead?

What are you going to do tomorrow?

Personally, I’m going to revisit my list of goals using Zig’s great framework and then focus on actions that directly impact those goals.

An Empire State of Mind

NYC

New York.

There really is no city like it in the world.

Last January, when I moved from the paradise of San Diego to New York for the Seth Godin Alt-MBA program, I thought it would be six months, then right back to palm trees and surfboards.

Now I’m not so sure. The city grows more on me everyday.

If you put the whole world in a blender, dumped it out and charged $3,000 a month rent, you have New York.

Still…I love it.

As a tribute, I’ve compiled a few of my favorite pieces on this amazing city. Someday I hope to write something more profound myself, but until then…

Enjoy.

[NSFW WARNING: The Edward Norton scene from 25th Hour, a very underrated Spike Lee Joint, has language that is not safe for work or little kiddies.]

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys singing Empire State of Mind

I Lego NY by artist Christoph Niemann.

The rest of the set is here.

01paper

Edward Norton as Monty Brogan in 25th Hour

A few cartoons from the brilliant and incomparable Hugh MacLeod.

I Have NY_gapingvoid

Random NY

I Like Difficult - I like NY

What are your favorite tributes to NYC?

[Photo credit: Thomas Hawk]

www.yourkidsname.com

Focused

If you have kids that aren’t in high school yet, they’ll never need a resume.

Never.

Resumes are broken and they are dying (but not quickly enough).

By the time today’s 14-year old today starts a career, they will be judged more by their digital footprint and reputation than by a Word document outlining past job responsibilities.

So why don’t you own the domain name for all of your children?

For $10 / year (two Starbucks lattes) you can give your child the platform on which to build their personal brand. It could be a blog or pictures or even just a digital scrapbook or scratchpad. It will evolve. The point is not to make it perfect, it’s to realize that resumes and similar representations are going away quickly and a personal URL is flexible enough to be whatever the future requires.

[photo credit: Vince Alongi]

The Hustler

Gary Vaynerchuk

This one has made the rounds but in case you haven’t seen it yet, there is so much truth here.

Every time I watch Gary, I feel like I didn’t do enough that day, which I think is part of the point.

Get out there and hustle, people.

Everything is changing and will continue to change, but if you put everything you have into doing what you love, nobody can take that away from you.

You’re just like Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

I’ve never been very good at golf. I’ve always played different sports and I could usually pick them up fairly easily and be adequate without a great deal of practice.

Not golf.

I would play a couple times a year. My friends would call when their 4th player canceled or they were desperate. They knew I was a hack and was likely to spend as much time in the woods as on the fairways.

I recently decided I wanted to get better at golf. My uncle John talked very highly of a golf instructor on Long Island named Victor Romano. John insisted that if I was serious about improving, that I drive out to Long Island and take lessons with Victor.

Victor is a wizard. In the matter of only a few lessons, he has helped my swing immensely and has fixed some major flaws. I still have a long way to go but I’m starting to see improvements.

Victor has a metaphor for golf improvement he calls “moving the bell curve”.

The metaphor is one of a 100 golf shots. Every swing a golfer takes, they reach into this metaphorical bucket and take out a ball. Ball #1 is the best shot they could possibly hit that day, given their skill level. Ball #100 is the worst. Plot those 100 shots and you get a representative bell curve of that golfer’s current skill level.

When you’re starting out, the bell curve is very wide. The #1 shot is probably OK and the #100 shot might be a complete whiff.

Bell Curve

As you gets slightly better, the #1 – 5 shots are quite a bit better but the worst #90 – #100 shots are still embarrassing shanks.

As you continue to improve, the #1 – #5 shots get even better, the medium shots get a little better and the worst shots aren’t quite as bad but #99 and #100 are probably still ones you would rather forget.

This is true for me and it’s true for you and it’s true for Tiger Woods. When Tiger Woods shoots a 76 (a terrible day for him), he hit some of the worst shots possible on his bell curve.

After working with Victor, my best shot (my #1) is almost as good as Tiger’s worst shot (his #100). That means the best shot I can hit out of 100 is comparable to the worst shot Tiger Woods hits.

The point of Victor’s metaphor is this.

Golfers always make excuses for the way they played a certain hole or a certain round. If they shot a great score on the front nine but played poorly on the back nine, they blame it on exhaustion or the fact that it was getting dark. If they hit a huge slice into the pond, they blame it on the fact that they pulled their head or that new wedge that they just haven’t figured out yet.

They’re wrong.

Their skill level is at a certain point. On a bad day, they hit more balls from the higher end of their bell curve.

The purpose of practice, in golf and many other endeavors, is to move the bell curve.

Chris Brogan and Seth Godin write new blog posts every day. Some posts are better than others but their last 100 are significantly better than their first 100. Through practice, over time, they have dramatically moved their blog quality bell curve. Following their lead, that’s what I’m trying to do as well.

Pick a skill in your business or personal life, what is your #1 ball? What is your #100?

How can you improve and move your own bell curve?

[Photo credit: Paul Gallegos / PR Photos]

She’s a 7

Windows7

Regardless of your personal loyalties in the never ending OS debate, this comment from Slashdot on the Windows 7 launch is pretty funny.

Original link from Slashdot.

I get the impression that the Windows 7 launch is a lot like seeing an old girlfriend suddenly show up on your doorstep wanting to get back together. She’s had some work done, apparently: stomach stapling to take off some of the weight, breast augmentation, and a radical nosejob to make her look as much like your current girlfriend as medical science will allow.

She’s pretty, of course, almost too pretty. She still wears far too much makeup and carries that desperate look in her eyes. The fragrant haze around her is the perfume she overuses to mask the scent of failure.

But standing there in that low-cut top, you’d almost forget for a moment what a psycho she was- how she used to shut down in the middle of a date and forget everything you were talking about and how she was only happy when you were buying her things. You’d almost forget about carrying around her legacy baggage or those nights when, for seemingly no reason at all, she would simply stop speaking to you and when you asked what was wrong she’d just spit a string of hex code at you and expect you to figure it out.

You complained about her for years before finally deciding to get rid of her, and here she is again. Though, somehow she seems like a completely different person now.

“I’m up here,” she says when she catches you staring at her chest.

Tempted though you may be, you know that over time she’ll get bored and slow down on you just like she always does. And then you’ll be right back where you started: trapped. She keeps you by convincing you that you don’t have a choice. You’re just not smart enough for one option or rich enough to afford the other.

“But I’m different now,” she says, batting her eyes innocently. “I’ve changed.”

Indeed she has. Apparently, she’s really into Cabala now or something like that. It’s helped her discover loads of untapped potential in herself. But it also means that you’ll have to buy all new furniture to fit with her understanding of feng shui. That’s not the only change she has in store for you. The minute you let her move in, she’ll have a new alarm system put in that succeeds only in preventing your friends from coming over on poker night.

She doesn’t love you, but she doesn’t hate you, either. The truth is that she couldn’t care less one way or the other. She’s here because she doesn’t want to be alone. Like all human beings, especially those well past their prime, she wants to feel wanted and, after a string of lost jobs and bad investments, she needs a place to stay.

But all in all, she’s OK. She’s a seven. She’ll do, I guess.

You need a David

David makes passengers laugh.

David makes passengers applaud.

David makes passengers safer.

David gives people a story to tell their friends.

David makes it fun for his colleagues to come to work.

David loves his job.

David makes more people fly Southwest Airlines.

David’s video has almost 2.5 million views on YouTube but even without the internet, the story spreads. Social media just helps it spread faster and further.

Your organization needs more people like David.

Do you know how to look for Davids?

Do you know how to hire Davids?

Here’s a secret…

We all have more David in us than we think, it’s just buried beneath years of “you can’t” and “you shouldn’t”.

Does your company culture enable and encourage people like David to be…….like David?

David

Customer Engagement at the DPHA

Axor Starck

On Saturday, I finished up a two-day presentation / workshop gig at the DPHA conference, the annual conference for the Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association.

Decorative plumbing and hardware includes luxury hardware for bathrooms and kitchens: high-end faucets, shower heads, sinks, bathtubs, lighting, mirrors, tile, etc.

The DPHA is made up of three primary groups:

1) The hardware manufacturers (like Hansgrohe, Rohl, Kohler and others)
2) The independent reps, who sell the manufacturers’ product lines to…
3) The dealers & showrooms, who sell to architects, builders and the end consumer, the homeowners

Everyone from the DPHA was extremely nice and generous.

Everyone from the Broadmoor, the beautiful, luxury resort where the conference was held was amazing.

Just one example of the Broadmoor’s outstanding service:
My good friend Al Pittampalli was also speaking. Al is a nutrition expert and he is testing a unique new diet to control the pH of his bloodstream. As a result, he needed lots of avocados and lemon. The Broadmoor concierge brought up 12 perfectly ripe avocados within minutes of Al calling. I can’t usually find 12 perfectly ripe avocados at Fairway Market or Whole Foods.

My presentation outlined how customer engagement is the new marketing and covered the three components that make up customer engagement:

Company Culture
Having spent two days last week inside Zappos, I confidently said that customer engagement is only as good as the company culture behind it. Every employee must be respected, empowered and inspired to make each customer interaction a delight.

Customer Experience
Stores like Stew Leonard’s, IKEA and Apple provide unique and remarkable customer experiences. In preparation for the conference, I had toured a few high end showrooms. While they were very clean and professional, they weren’t extremely remarkable. During my presentation, I proposed some promotions that could increase the ‘story’ factor for the showrooms:

“Halloween Light Night” promotion
Stay open two hours later than usual. Hire a local author to read ghost stories to the kids while you take customers on a tour of the lighting section of your showroom with all of the other store lights off, creating a dark, Halloween atmosphere but showing off your best product in the conditions they would actually be used in.

“Come Shower With Us” promotion
Sounds like something dreamed up by Hugh Hefner, right? That’s exactly why people would talk about it. Setup portable locker rooms and let customers pick out which shower heads they want to test. This would also give showrooms an opportunity to demo new product lines of high-end soaps and bathrobes that many are exploring.

At the very least, it would be a story that spreads and as we know, stories that spread, win.

Carpe Defect
As I explained in an older post, Carpe Defect (Seize the Defect) is a term I came up with for taking a bad customer experience and making a customer for life. This blog and many books focus on providing amazing customer service, but we’re all human and mistakes happen. Customers generally understand that and don’t expect perfection, but it is in HOW companies deal with those errors that determine which story gets told.

A big mistake isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is an opportunity to make a customer for life. Instead of just making the customer whole and fixing the problem, you need to go over and above so that the customer has a positive story to tell.

Social Media
As instructed by the DPHA executive committee, I only briefly touched on social media near the end but attendees seemed very interested. Many had open ears and open minds and wanted to better understand how social media and customer engagement can help their industry in what is currently a difficult market for luxury goods.

I would like to thank the DPHA for having me and thank the Broadmoor for outstanding customer service.

Most of all, I would like to thank those attendees who asked questions about how to improve their corporate culture, their customer experience and Carpe Defect. You can’t control the luxury spending trends but you can control how you make the customer feel.

[NB: As requested, I will be posting my slides from the presentation on SlideShare soon.]

50 Extraordinary Billboards

Interruption marketing rarely works. Permission marketing is always better.

I honestly believe that most people can’t remember a single billboard they saw in the last week.

Can you?

What if you saw these billboards? Whether you want to buy the product or not, would you at least point it out to anyone else in your vehicle? Would you tell your friends?

[I think some are probably Photoshopped but most are real.]

Ponds Pores

Tylenol

Formula

Full list of all 50 on Johnson Koh’s blog here.

More or Less?

Abacus

More
Some industries are becoming more fragmented. A lower barrier to entry is resulting in more new players with no end in sight.

More authors (blogs, Lulu & self publishing tools).
More charities (Charity Water, Acumen, Kiva).
More musicians and more songs (iTunes, last.fm).

Less
Some industries are consolidating – a few dominant players are capturing more and more of the market.

Less bookstores (Amazon).
Less search engines (Google).
Less pharmaceutical companies (mergers & acquisitions).

Is your industry becoming one of more or one of less? How are you preparing? Does your story match the trend in the industry? Should it?

Zappos Insights – Day 2

TonyHsieh-225x300

After a fun dinner at CEO Tony Hsieh’s house last night, today was another amazing day at Zappos headquarters.

My tweet-summary from Day 1 is here.

For more, check out the hashtag #zapposlive.

@ZapposInsights 10:15:01 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: @zappos_alfred talking about difference between information and wisdom (insights) Discussing all sorts of growth. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:20:14 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: How do you grow bother personally and professionally? Can’t grow professionally unless you invest in yourself and grow too. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:22:04 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: The typical planning process for business growth metrics ends up with the same results. Need to involve more ‘How’ and ‘Why’. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:22:59 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: What are going to be the ‘Inputs’ that will help make your company successful? Typical strategies are mostly ‘Outputs’. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:24:01 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: You can’t necessarily control the ‘Outputs’, but you can definitely control the ‘Inputs’ to guide the way. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 10:26:37 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Most companies plan to grow all areas of the company, except they forget to plan to grow their company culture #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:28:39 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Building teams that have all three types of people, can help make any process/goal become a reality. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 10:35:47 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Three type of people on team to build successfully – visionary, artist (creative), scientist (numbers) #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:29:55 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: What is your Vision? Zappos started with selection, then service, and eventually found that culture was a big part of the vision #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:30:35 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Delivering happiness is overall vision. Your vision can evolve/grow, too! #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:31:56 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Focus on the core, the mix of 1) what you can be the best at, 2) you are passionate about, and 3) drives your economic engine. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:33:59 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Get Alignment. Get everyone to row in the same direction. Over-communicate by 10-20%. Make sure everything is explained in full #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:36:06 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Have a higher purpose. Fight for a cause/Find you calling. Make sure everyone in the company understands the purpose. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:38:25 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Large meetings work for communicating certain things, some are better suited to a smaller setting, to make it personal. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:44:26 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Come up with whatever metric makes sense, then be willing to change it over time. Can’t use the same measurements over time #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:58:38 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Daily sales report is sent to all Zappos employees, and 1500 brand partners. Open communication benefits all parties. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 11:03:41 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: When we hire people, we want to raise the bar for the team. We look to find people who can really make the team better! #zapposlive

@Scott_Allison 11:17:10 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: http://twitpic.com/lmlyx – Advice from @zappos_alfred CFO/COO. Really understand your talent & fill any gaps with your team. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 11:26:38 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Dave @dave337 www.atlantarefrigeration.com INC 500/5000 speaking how he got “zapped” #zapposlive implemented culture in his company

@ZapposInsights 11:27:01 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: ‘Virtual Bench’ of non-hired potential employees who keep in touch with company because the culture blew them away. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 11:31:57 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: @dave337 is talking about dropping cash bonuses and putting together a 101 dreams list. Employees help each other meet goals. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 11:35:35 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: @dave337 switched to all google apps to make it easier to connect with everyone #zapposlive www.google.com/apps

@ZapposInsights 11:40:55 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: “It all kind of snowballs once you get a few people on-board with it”. @dave337 on growth of culture at ARS. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 11:40:57 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: @dave337 talks how Faceball one way to create fun in the office http://www.flickr.com/groups/faceball/ #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 11:44:12 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: “Official site” on how to play Faceball http://www.faceball.org/ #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:05:05 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Help Desk is our ‘Concierge service on Red Bull’. Want to make sure all interaction here is as enjoyable as it can be! #zapposlive

@Scott_Allison 12:12:49 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Watch this amazing video which describes how Zappos grow and develop staff and the company for the future http://bit.ly/AnNUr #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:24:48 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Roger: We want everyone to realize what it means to really be a service company. Everyone does 40 hrs on phones. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:27:04 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Maura: Everyone is trained on the phones, everyone helps on phones for holiday/busy season (even Tony!) No seasonal hiring. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:31:08 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Hollie: Performance reviews are always evolving. Half of review is based on core values. Technical performance is other half. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:34:26 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Maura: QA and Metrics. We score calls – a lot is put into PEC (Personal Emotional Connection). Customer-facing time . #zapposlive

@jessicalawrence 12:43:21 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Zappos hires less than 1% of all candidates who apply. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:47:51 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Roger: Make sure the values are evident in everything that you are doing. Make sure they are incorporated in it all. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:51:17 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Dave: Allowing team members the freedom to say ‘Lets try this….’ can really push them to succeed, their input is valued. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 14:26:25 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Lots of WOW! in action. @zappos_drob is explaining how we are going to keep in touch and try our best to help after #zapposlive events!

@ZapposInsights 14:37:25 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Up next: Leadership training with Dr Vik. – Pygmalion effect.. People are only as good as you expect them to be. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 14:41:56 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: http://drvik.com/?page_id=32 Dr. Vik is explaining how to ‘Spin it and Win it’. Take a positive approach to any situation. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 14:43:27 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Benefits of coaching. Employees have a positive attitude, are acknowledged and recognized, resist negativity and are empowered. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 14:50:41 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: People can talk their way around a situation and work out good solutions, just by having a place to discuss it and work it out. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:10:46 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: “How can we get a coach on-site without having the extra $$?” – Just do it. Find someone who is trusted in the company. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:11:27 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Coaching can be spread out between a group of people in the company. It doesn’t have to be a single coach. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:13:24 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Next question – “How can you afford NOT to get a coach?” What line item is more important than the growth of the employees? #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:14:44 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Coaching position will pay for itself from the productivity of the employees who are empowered and growing. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:30:36 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Leadership vs Management: No one likes to be ‘managed’ or bossed around. We prefer to manage business and Lead the people. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:34:54 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Leadership at Zappos sits in the open. Many people can walk up to key leaders and bring ideas/have discussions. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:36:13 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: “The time we are here is not just to get emails cranked out and work on projects, it’s to be open and available.” @zappos_fred #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 15:37:14 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: via Fred Mossler – Zappos keeps flat level biz, Sr Execs sit among all other employees because that’s where best ideas come from #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:38:02 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: 68% of relationships are broken because? One word. Indifference. Customers come back because of the personal relationship and service. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:41:24 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Customers dictate what your brand is. Take them very seriously. Brand and culture are two sides of the same coin. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:42:54 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Even though roughly 95% of new orders are placed online, customers will contact us at least once in their time with us. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 15:43:54 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: You can no longer hide behind marketing campaign in this transparency world customer determines your brand via Fred Mossler #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:44:27 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: “We don’t tell people what to do, we just let them know what needs to be done.” -Dr. Vik #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:45:18 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: There are a lot of things that exist that were never planned. We give the employees the freedom to pursue their passions. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:47:29 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: In 2006 UPS trucks saved 28,541,472 million miles and 3m gallons of fuel by reducing the number of left turns taken. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 16:17:08 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Have you ever told the person (who’s name you wrote down) and told him/her the impact they made in your life? #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 16:27:58 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Talking about Tribal Leadership: Explaining different stages of company culture. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 16:28:12 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Stage 1 – Life sucks. Stage 2 – My life sucks. Stage 3 – I’m great. Stage 4 – We’re Great. Stage 5 – Life is Great. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 16:28:48 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: What stage do you think you are in? You can only upgrade one stage at a time. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 16:30:16 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Tribal Leadership – Most organizations never make it to Stage 5 – Life is Great! need to help people move up one stage at a time #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 16:33:34 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: What keeps people from reaching goal? Fear of failure, Not enough time? Lack of a sense of urgency. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 16:35:19 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Sense of Urgency: It Must be done. It must be done NOW. Gets things done. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 16:39:33 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: If you could talk to yourself about your goals in a month, what would you say? You can! Go ahead and write yourself a letter. #zapposlive

@Zappos_DRob 19:50:46 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Had an amazing time with the Zappos Insights LIVE crew this week! It’s a new batch of culture gurus ready to change their world. #zapposlive

@rachelcosgrove 20:05:40 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Thank you @zapposinsights! Awesome two days of letting us get infected by your culture. Learned lots & met some amazing people. #zapposlive

@jessicalawrence 18:25:11 Friday, Oct 16th 09: One major takeaway from #zapposlive? Remarkable marketing won’t make up for an unremarkable product. Thanks @clayhebert!

@KillerChef 20:26:19 Friday, Oct 16th 09: Thanks to everyone on the #zapposlive team for their hospitality and openness. Looking forward to our 1st class reunion. (hint, hint, hint)

Zappos Insights – Day 1

Zappos_Shoes

Wow. What an amazing day. My head is literally spinning. Anyone who has followed this blog knows I’ve been a big fan of Zappos for a long time but today I got to experience it in person, through the Zappos Insights program.

Zappos Insights is a live event where people can come and learn about how Zappos built their culture and company and values. I learned so much and am really looking forward to Day #2.

Here is a tweetstream of consciousness of the top takeaways from Day #1. For more, search the hashtag #zapposlive.

@jessicalawrence 23:40:38 Tuesday, Oct 13th 09: Who’s at #zapposlive ? The founder of this company: http://bit.ly/wiAkU The author of this book: http://bit.ly/9UrDe And more!

@ZapposInsights 09:58:52 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Great Start! Teams are presenting their super heroes and powers. Team Foresight, can see 1 minute into future. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:01:42 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: team Mucho Oreja’s power is to be able to hear what all the customers are saying about them. #zapposlive

@clayhebert 10:24:54 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Learning Zappos culture (and dancing) at @ZapposInsights #zapposlive (@ Zappos HQ in Henderson) http://bit.ly/4jabMF

@ZapposInsights 12:27:55 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: http://bit.ly/QsUqt #zapposlive – Showing off their mullets!!

@ZapposInsights 12:30:42 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: “You can talk about culture all day long, but to really feel the vibe, was really cool” – Paraphrase. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 12:35:42 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Zappos tours Mon-Thurs Jan-Feb did 200 tours,haven’t toured this incredible company, you’re missing a major Vegas attraction ;-) #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 12:38:28 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: People get emotional seeing on the zappos tour an actual company with real culture is a reality here #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 12:44:37 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Tony learned through lesson at Linkexchange that culture is #1 priority so you still enjoy going work when biz grows #zapposlive

@jlajoie 12:45:51 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Tony giving us the story at #ZapposLive http://yfrog.com/2tnkpj

@eldridge2m 12:48:05 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Great book via Tony Tribal Leadership Free download http://www.zappos.com/tribal.zhtml #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:50:21 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: What’s the larger vision and greater purpose in your work beyond money and profits? – @zappos speaking at #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 12:53:54 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Zappos Tony against bonus plans, it creates wrong results – HR studies rank money as #4or5 is easy but not best way to reward #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 13:07:24 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: @zappos explains that field of ‘Happiness’ says that people are very bad at predicting what will make them happy. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 13:16:19 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Zappos goal: employees want to be working there ten years from now, helps them grow both personally & professionally #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 13:16:19 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Zappos will offer a class for employees on the Science of Happiness. @zappos talking about Maslow’s Hierarchy. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 13:18:55 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: 3 types of happiness: Pleasure (Rock Star), Engagement (Flow) and Being part of something Bigger (Meaning/Higher Purpose). #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 13:20:05 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Rockstar is very short-lived happiness. Flow is second longest, Meaning/Purpose is longest lasting type of happiness. #zapposlive

@Zappos_DRob 13:24:11 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: What % of your time do you spend learning about the science of happiness? What will make you happy? Study. Learn. Grow. Be Happy. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 13:34:56 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: @zappos If you hire people who’s values are aligned with the company’s values, there is no need to change people’s values. #zapposlive

@heif 13:40:08 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: @zappos tony says amzn acquisition will be like having a new board of directors (& a board that understands retail) #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 13:57:09 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Zappos Core Values established 2005 http://bit.ly/D0bzd #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 14:04:26 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Core values become a blueprint for employees to use when making day-to-day decisions. #zapposlive

@clayhebert 14:24:30 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: @Zappos_Service Having a blast! I didn’t know I could hula hoop at all. I guess I can (a little). Thanks! #zapposlive

@clayhebert 14:27:22 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Just listening to Tony Hsieh ( @zappos ) explain HOW to develop core values. Should be an essential exercise for any company. #zapposlive

@clayhebert 14:31:16 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: “Don’t chase the paper. Chase the dream.” P-Diddy to B.I.G. in Notorious (as told by Tony Hsieh @zappos) #zapposlive

@clayhebert 14:33:26 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: “Don’t worry about MOTIVATION of employees v~fear or money. Focus more on INSPIRATION, then motivation will take care of itself” #zapposlive

@clayhebert 14:36:51 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: A happiness framework from Tony Hsieh @zappos 1) Perceived Control 2) Perceived Progress 3) Connectedness 4) Vision/Meaning #zapposlive

@clayhebert 14:38:07 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: “Are you committed to your core values? Really committed? Are you willing to hire & fire people based on them?” @zappos #zapposlive

@Scott_Allison 14:54:23 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: RT @eldridge2m: Great book via Tony Tribal Leadership Free download http://www.zappos.com/tribal.zhtml #zapposlive

@jessicalawrence 15:01:49 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: #zapposlive Great morning. Love Tony’s interest in happiness research. New book on “to read” list: Happiness Hypothesis

@ZapposInsights 15:12:57 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Make sure your values are action-able. How do you set values that can become verbs? no cookie-cutters here. #zapposlive

@jessicalawrence 15:13:33 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Zappos cares about your pee: http://twitpic.com/lj8ci #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:15:24 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Values. What do values look like? Generosity: Sharing, selfless, kind, giving of time.. How do we make that actionable? #zapposlive

@clayhebert 15:53:23 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: No scripts. No call times. Taking the phones with Holly at the @zappos call center! #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 17:03:02 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Great WOW service sitting listening in with Josh on Zappos CLT, he ROCKS! Best customer service in the World!! @zappos_service #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 17:15:30 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: @zappos_drob really likes matching handbags to shoes, apparently…. ‘it has to fit my wallet, my cell phone and my gun….’ #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 17:36:34 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Dr. Vik’s daily blog http://blogs.zappos.com/blogs/coach – employee’s look forward to the daily coach keeping them grounded #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 17:17:49 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Zappos reps rarely ever have to go to manager because it wouldn’t be good customer service, reps are empowered! #zapposlive

@knacion 00:38:07 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: First it begins inside your heart. Something moves. Then opens. Then frees itself. A rhythm breaking its silence. This is good. #zapposlive

@magazines_jay 09:00:44 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Great dinner last night at the home of Tony Hsieh of Zappos. Not only great with customer care, but also great with hospitality! #zapposlive

More coming tomorrow!

Pantene’s Extraordinary Ad

Pantene

Three more magazines folded last week, including Gourmet, one of my favorites.

Traditional advertising is dying.

This isn’t traditional advertising.

Book Drips – I Love You More Than My Dog by Jeanne Bliss

dog-book-sm

What make companies like Zappos, The Container Store, Harley Davidson, Netflix, Rackspace, Umpqua Bank, LUSH, Threadless, USAA, Trader Joe’s, Apple, CD Baby, Southwest Airlines and many more so beloved by their passionate fans?

Jeanne Bliss’s new book explains exactly how.

In her new book, “I Love You More Than My Dog“, Jeanne reveals the five key decisions that beloved companies make to drive customer loyalty. The book isn’t even out until Thursday (you can download the first chapter and pre-order here) but in a moment, I will tell you how to get a copy FREE.

Jeanne devotes a chapter to each of the five decisions that companies make to become beloved by customers. She ends each chapter with an excellent summary of the necessary decision and challenges companies to analyze themselves on that axis, hitting on the questions below.

    1. Decide to BELIEVE.

    Do you believe:
    – In the good judgment of the people you hire?
    – That trust is reciprocated by customers?
    – In the truth of your customers’ words?
    – That trusted and prepared employees grow the business?
    – In more trust than rules? In more training than policies?
    – How would your customers describe your trust in them?
    – Would your employees say you honor them?

    2. Decide with CLARITY.

    Do you have clarity about:
    – The memories you want to deliver?
    – The type of people who belong in your company?
    – How to steer decision making?
    – The experience you are all working toward?
    – Are your decisions directed toward executing tasks or achieving a purpose?

    3. Decide to BE REAL.

    Do you:
    – Touch a cord with customers?
    – Encourage personality and creativity of employees?
    – Communicate personally, without the corporate veneer?
    – Make decisions by envisioning customers in their lives?
    – How would customers describe who you are as people?
    – How do employees describe your company personality?

    4. Decide to BE THERE.

    Are you there for your customers?
    – Do your customers’ lives inform and inspire the behavior, the actions, and the operation of your business?
    – Is your operating plan based on your priorities or customer priorities?
    – Can customers easily tell the story of the experience you deliver?

    5. Decide to SAY SORRY.

    When you apologize:
    – Are you genuine?
    – Do you restore confidence in being associated with you?
    – Do you honor those impacted and resolve their problem?
    – Do you deliver your apology swiftly and with humility?

I love examples, so I love that Jeanne fills each chapter with very specific, concise examples in one-page vignettes of how each company chose to decide using a consistent format that explains each company’s

    1. Decision Intent
    2. Motivation and
    3. Impact.

If you have customers, you need to read this book.

If you are a customer, Jeanne is your advocate.

Read more about Jeanne and watch videos of her on her website, CustomerBliss.com.

Jeanne was kind enough to give me three copies of her new book to give away. To get a chance at one, you must take the following two actions:

[full disclosure: I borrowed / stole this “comment + tweet” idea from my friend Michael Hyatt. If you don’t already read his blog, I highly recommend it.]

1. Leave a comment below. Tell me why you want this book. Be creative.

2. Tweet a link to this post. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can use Facebook.

On Thursday, October 15th, I will select three winners, whom I will email directly. If you don’t hear from me, you can assume you didn’t make the cut.

Question: Why do you want a copy of this book?

How easy do you make it?

Equinox

Equinox, a national chain of health clubs, understands that that thrilled members help spread their story.

The economics of health clubs is fairly simple. The many paying members who belong but don’t frequent the clubs subsidize the few that go often. Just like airlines oversell flights, health clubs oversell workouts. If even half the members of any given health club showed up at the same time, gridlock would ensue.

To compete, top health clubs invest heavily in flashy marketing and fancy club amenities designed to sell as many memberships as possible but beyond that, don’t go out of their way to encourage usage.

Enter Equinox. Instead of offering better soap in the locker rooms, Equinox proactively invested in the development of a super slick iPhone app and a mobile website that allows members to:

    – find clubs via GPS
    – find classes by club, category or instructor
    – learn more about the class or the instructor
    – maintain a MY EQ favorites list
    – track workouts and set goals
    – send VIP invitations to friends
    – reserve a bike for studio cycling classes

Equinox not only made it easy for customers to use their clubs, they gave members a story to tell and made it easy for them to tell it. Brilliant.

How easy do you make it for your customers to use your product or service or tell your story?

Unexcused absence (Daily Sense is back)

Unexcused Absence

I’m sorry.

I’ve failed you, my readers.

I promised a post per day and until July 26th, I was doing well.

I have no good excuse. Sure, I’ve been busy. I founded and am building my social media consultancy, Tribes Win. I’ve moved. I’ve also undergone a lot of personal change recently. But I’m not any busier than Chris Brogan or Mitch Joel, or Gary Vaynerchuk who are traveling around the country on their respective book and speaking tours. Those guys are swamped and still manage to deliver quality content all the time.

You are all very busy as well and I appreciate the attention you give me. I know that attention is scarce and I appreciate yours.

My hiatus is unexcused and I apologize.

Thank you to all of you who asked what happened to the daily drips and inquired if I had moved the blog. You know who you are.

My promise to you is this.

1) I’m back.
2) I’ll be posting daily again.
3) As my way of trying to rectify my recent absence, I’m going to work harder to regain your trust and your confidence. I will try to make some of my upcoming posts exciting and I will have at least two upcoming giveaways.

(If I get time, I’ll try to go back and make up for the daily posts that I missed. I’m not promising this but I’m going to try.)

Thanks for sticking with me.

-Clay

A smarter Clay

Check out this excellent TED @State talk from the smartest Clay I know.

The most important changes Clay highlights:

“The media that is good at creating conversation is no good at creating groups. The media that is good at creating groups is no good at creating conversation.”

“The internet is the first medium in history that has native support for groups and conversations at the same time.”

“As all media gets digitized, the internet becomes the mode of carriage for all other media.”

“Members of the former audience can now be producers instead of consumers. The same equipment lets you consume and produce.”

And my favorite quote from the entire video:

“The moment we’re living through, the moment our historical generation is living through, is the largest increase in expressive capability in human history.”

The boldness of that statement is overshadowed only by its accuracy.

Anyone need a cape?

A great example of one store who really understands marketing.

brooklyn-superhero-supply-co

The typography.

The store layout.

The consistent story.

The treatment of customers like the superheros.

The absence of fear of lawsuits claiming that their invisibility paint doesn’t really make you invisible.

The fact that the the store is a clever front for the non-profit (youth orientated) creative writing and tutoring center, 826NYC. To enter 826NYC, you actually have to go through a swinging bookcase in the BBS store. Proceeds from the BBS store fund 826NYC directly to help young people with their creative writing skills.

Awesome. I know where I’m buying my next cape.

Image credit: dels from a tribe called next.

Fried Green Insight

Jason Fried_compressed

Full disclosure…

I’m a huge fan of the team over at 37 Signals. They bleed simple brilliance. David Heinemeier Hansson gave one of my favorite talks ever at Startup School 08 and in May, Jason Fried delivered another gem at Big Omaha 2009.

Everyone should make time to watch Jason’s video, but if you can’t carve out 20 minutes my summary is below.

Jason Fried @ Big Omaha 2009 from Big Omaha on Vimeo.

Failure is not cool
The phrase “fail early, fail often” is overused. Failure is actually not necessary. Failure is not a character-building thing and it’s not a prerequisite to success. Focus on the things that are going right and parlay that.

Planning is overrated.
Business plans are just guesses. You can’t predict what’s going to happen. What matters is what you’re doing right now. You know more about something after you’re done with it.

Interruption is the enemy of collaboration.
A big open loft space does not necessarily mean more collaboration and higher productivity. With so many interruptions, workdays become work moments.

Try this in your company or department. Every Thursday, nobody can talk to each other. Email and IM and other tools are fine but no talking. See if it’s the most productive day that week. Or that month.

You create valuable byproducts.
When you make something, you make something else. We are all making byproducts.

When building houses, the sawdust created from all the lumber was initially thought of as waste. Then, people found multiple useful applications for it and it ended up being a valuable byproduct, sold for money.

When 37 Signals built Basecamp, the byproduct was Ruby on Rails and they didn’t even know it at the time.

Sometimes the valuable byproduct is knowledge.

Share like a chef.
Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Bobby Flay. They share what they do on TV. They tell you exactly what ingredients they use and show you step-by-step how to do what they do. If you want to do it at home, you can buy their cookbook for a fraction of the cost of a single meal.

This doesn’t make them less money, it makes them more. More people know about them. More people buy the cookbooks. More people eat at the restaurants.

Traditional business thinking would shut down this blatant sharing of intellectual capital.

The best thing you can do is share your knowledge.

What is your cookbook? Publish it. It helps you…

Build an audience.
Every company has customers. Great companies have fans. At the least, you need an audience.

90,000 people read the 37 Signals blog everyday. It takes time to build but it doesn’t cost them a penny to reach this large captive audience.

Focus on the things that don’t change.
What are the core, important things in your business that don’t change?

Amazon invests in distribution. Shipping. Customer service. Price. These things will be important to their business in 10 years.

37 Signals makes web-based software. They focus on making it fast, easy and usable. It may not be sexy but that is what will be important to their business in 10 years.

Ideas are immortal. Inspiration is perishable.
We all have ideas. Ideas are immortal.

Inspirations however, are like fresh fruit or milk. They are very perishable. If you’re lucky enough to be inspired, do it. Do it now. The most energy you’ll ever have about an idea is at the beginning. You can’t sustain it.

Thanks to Jason and the whole crew over at 37 Signals. Keep leading, guys.

Capture everything

You can’t schedule great thoughts.

Sometimes they come while driving.

Sometimes they come in the shower.

Sometimes they come in a dream in the middle of the night.

Sometimes they come in a movie theater.

Sometimes they come at a wedding.

The point is, if you don’t capture the great idea, quote, blog post or song lyric, it’s unlikely you’ll recall it later.

The solution is to always have a method to capture your great thoughts on the spot. I’ll list my coverage strategy here. Yours will be different of course, but my goal is to get you to make the minute changes necessary so you never again lose another great thought.

Sleeping
I keep my small Moleskine and a pen next to my bed. I rarely wake up in the middle of the night with great thoughts but the moment I open my eyes, my mind is a blender of tasks, meetings and ideas and having a way to capture them immediately helps me start my day in a relaxed and organized fashion.
Moleskine

Working
If I’m in front of my computer, online or not, I use a great application called Remember the Milk. It works well with David Allen’s GTD system and provides enough flexibility to implement your own methodology for tasks & reminders. They also have an excellent iPhone app that in my opinion is well worth the $20 per year.

As a backup, I always have my small Moleskine in my briefcase when I am away from my laptop.

rememberthemilk

Driving
**Always focus on the road and never write, text or call while driving.** If there is a passenger in the car, I’ll ask them to write the idea in my Moleskine or shoot me an SMS message reminder. If I’m alone, I’ll wait until I’m stopped, then write it down myself or use a service like Jott or, if I want to immediately tweet my idea or question, Audioboo.

audioboo-logo-174933

Movie Theater
If the movie is so bad that my mind is wandering (or if watching Freida Pinto inspires some poetry) I’ll quickly and silently make a note in my iPhone.
RTM-iPhone

Cooking
I’m usually so focused (frazzled?) when cooking a big meal that my mind is dialed into making sure everything finishes at the same time but if a great thought pops into my head, I’ll quickly scrawl it on the refrigerator in puttanesca sauce.

Fishing
I’ll tell my fishing partner to remind me. Unreliable but cheaper than dropping my iPhone in the bottom of the lake.

Surfing
This is the one exception in my “capture everything”. My mind is always clear when surfing. Mostly because it’s peaceful and I’m one with nature, but also because I’m trying not to drown.

What tools & systems do you use to capture everything?

Amazon’s New Shoez

amazon_logozappos_logo

Amazon just announced that it was acquiring Zappos, one of my favorite companies, for $807 million in Amazon stock, and about $40 million in cash and restricted stock.

Here are 5 reasons everyone wins in this deal:

1) Culture
Amazon gets to learn directly from Zappos, the company that wrote the book on culture as the DNA of success.

2) Leadership
Amazon gets Tony Hsieh, Fred Mossler, and Alfred Lin, three leaders who understand the new business paradigm as well as anyone.

3) Vision
See #2. Imagine sitting in “future of the company” brainstorms with Jeff, Tony, Fred and Alfred.

4) (Repeat) Customers
Here is Zappos’ repeat customer data from March 2001 – March 2007. (click to see larger)
Zappos_Repeat

5) Transparency
From living his life publicly on Twitter to the heartfelt letter Tony Hsieh wrote to Zappos employees, Zappos bleeds honesty and transparency. I love Amazon but I’ve always felt like I’m dealing with a website. With Zappos, I know there are humans behind the curtain.

The transparency seems to be rubbing off already. Here is Jeff’s video:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy some AMZN.

Cronkite, Twitter and Trust

Obit Cronkite

Photo credit: AP Photo/CBS, File.

An excellent post from KD Paine, Walter Cronkite and the shifting residence of trust.

After Cronkite’s assertion that it was time to pull out of Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson told his aide, Bill Moyers, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

It’s easy to imagine Barack Obama telling an aide, “If I’ve lost Twitter, I’ve lost………..”

Finish that sentence.

Book Drips – What NASA didn’t tell you

RocketMen Cover

Think your project is difficult?

Think your boss is demanding?

Think the deadlines you’ve been given are unrealistic?

Imagine working for NASA 41 years ago and John F. Kennedy telling you to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to earth.

Most of the 40th anniversary coverage has focused on the success and wonder of the historic event, and rightfully so, but in a new and thrilling book, Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon, author Craig Nelson outlines the full story, the good and the bad, of the space and missile race.

Some nuggets you may not have known: (directly from Rocket Men)

– The thirty-story-high Apollo 11-Saturn V spaceship had over 6 million parts, which meant that under NASA’s rigorous instance of 99.9% reliability, as many as 6,000 could fail.

– The nearly 1 million spectators who began gathering at Cape Kennedy for launch on July 16th, 1969, were kept at least 3.5 miles away from the pad because, in an explosion, hundred-pound chunks of shrapnel would be hurled in a 3-mile radius with 4/5 the power of an atomic bomb.

– When President Kennedy proposed a moon landing within a decade as the most effective way to take the lead in the space race after the shocking Soviet achievements of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin’s first manned orbit, even NASA’s most zealous engineers were aghast.

– The astronauts’ final breakfast on earth was steak and eggs. Why? Low in fiber and low in waste.

– The lunar samples brought back to earth by the Apollo missions revealed the moon’s origins.

– NASA designers had neglected to place a handle on the Eagle’s outside door, which meant that Armstrong and Aldrin had to make sure to leave it open while they walked on the Moon.

– When Neil Armstrong was asked by a reporter what one extra item he would take with him, his dry humor shone through. “More fuel.”

These and more amazing details are revealed in Rocket Men as Craig Nelson takes the reader inside the journey that changed the world. I highly recommend this book to not only space geeks and history buffs but anyone who wants a deeper look into the story behind the first Moon landing.

[Disclosures: I know the author Craig Nelson well and consider him a good friend. The link above is an Amazon affiliate link.]