Tag Archives: communication

Inspiration, not information

At every presentation, the level of understanding of the subject matter by the audience varies widely.

If you’re giving a presentation on social media, some people are well educated and understand it’s place in business (and it’s not always the people live-tweeting your thoughts). There are others who know a little but are less familiar than the first group. Still others may know little to nothing.

The audience’s knowledge and experience lies along a wide spectrum.

So what is a good presenter to do? How do you make sure that the experts aren’t bored and the others aren’t left behind?

Use inspiration, not information.

Use the information to illustrate a key point or concept. Tell a story. Take them to a place.

Sir Ken Robinson presented to a room full of TED folks who knew (in varying degrees) that our current education system is sub-optimal.

Steve Jobs presents to hundreds of thousands of people, in person and online, who have literally been predicting and prototyping what he’s going to tell them.

Don’t give information. Give inspiration.

Then, you’ll have the whole room.

Flowtown knows what you’re wearing

OK, they may not know what you’re wearing but there is a good chance they know your customers better than you do.

Flowtown uses emails from your customer database, (you do have an email database for your customers, right?) and can tell you interesting and valuable information about those customers.

I recently met the founders of Flowtown online. They are wicked smart guys with a product that is immediately useful to almost any business.

Below is my interview with Ethan Bloch.

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Ethan Bloch and I’m the Co-founder and CEO of Flowtown.

Why should companies use Flowtown?
Because social media is hard and Flowtown turns social data in dollars.

How much does Flowtown know about someone from their email address?
Name, Age Group, Gender, Occupation, Location, Influence and almost every Social network they’re on.

Really? Wow. Do you know what I’m wearing right now?
I think you’d prefer I didn’t say ;)

So this would allow companies to do more targeted campaigns. For instance, if only 10,000 of their 100,000 members are twitter users, they could do a focused campaign, right?
Totally, way more focused. For example if you’re not on Twitter it would be annoying to get an email saying ‘Hi Clay, we’re building out our presence on Twitter…” you’d be like “I’m not on there, why are you sending me this?” On the flip side we’ve found that if you know someone is on a network and you mention that in your email, the performance of that campaign skyrockets.

Is Flowtown a replacement for traditional email systems like Flowtown, AWeber or MailChimp?
In the case of mainstream email service providers, I don’t think Flowtown is a replacement but rather an enhancement. For example we’ve built an integration with MailChimp where any MailChimp user can come to Flowtown and in 3 clicks dump a ton of demographic and social graphic information back into their MailChimp list and then use MailChimp’s segmentation feature to get more relevant with their subscribers.

You guys are adding interesting new features to Flowtown pretty quickly. Tell us about some of them.
We just launched an influence calculation (powered by Klout), where now when you import a contact list we’ll show you your top 50 influencers, which you can use to do 1-on-1 outreach i.e. we’re showing you the 20% that will drive 80% of the results, in respect to getting noticed and building buzz.

In fact everything we do at Flowtown is ran through this ‘Pareto Lens’ – early on, internally, Dan and I would speak of Flowtown as the 80/20 marketing filter for business.

Tell me about your partner, Dan Martell. How did you guys meet?
He’s a Rockstar – we wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are today without Dan.

We actually met on Twitter back in September 2008. Did an IRL meetup, discovered we’re both passionate about marketing and moving the needle for business and the rest is history…

Tell us what your typical day at Flowtown is like.
I wake up around 6:30 and immediately touch base with David (VP of Engineering), he’s on EST so by the time I get up I’m already playing catchup.

(I jumpstart my day by using a strategy from Leo at Zen Habits: http://zenhabits.net/2007/02/jumpstart-your-day-night-before-evening/)

I’ll do a brief skim of all the new email that’s came in make sure there’s no bombs going off and then then I’ll work on 1-2 of the most important tasks I have scheduled for the day, for the next 3 hours, usually product, sales or biz dev focused, this could include new product mocks, coding, emails, phone calls, brainstorming and white boarding.

After those 3-hours are up I start going into a more ad-hoc mode, where I’m answering email/tweets, talking to customers, closing new customers, working with David on new features, bouncing around the bay for meetings, testing new features, breaking things and syncing up with Dan.

Later in the day/evening is when I go to the 30,000+ foot view of life, this includes research, reading (going through my Instapaper) and planning.

What did you do before you started Flowtown?
Right before I started Flowtown I was producing/hosting a video show called WSYK? (What Should You Know?) which was syndicated by Revision3. And I was a marketer full time at Cake Financial, a start-up that was recently sold to E-Trade.

Where do you hope Flowtown will be in 3 years?
Flowtown will be responsible for raising the bar on customer experience/service, by helping all businesses care for their customers like Zappos cares for theirs.

What’s the plan then?
Not sure if I’ll be ready, but I want to help fill the massive void in education. I hated school growing up and think there’s a lot we can do to improve the experience for children everywhere.

You’re from Baltimore. Please tell me you’ve seen the Wire or we’re ending this interview right now.

“You come at the king you best not miss.”

I love The Wire. My favorite character is Omar and if you don’t know why just watch this.

Thanks, Ethan.

If you want to try Flowtown yourself, enter your email address here.

Layering snowballs

With the right temperature and a little wet snow, anyone can make a snowball, but my friend Jimmy makes them all day, everyday, in sunny San Diego.

I had another excellent call with Jimmy and a potential client today. After the call, a light bulb went on and I realized what makes Jimmy such a great entrepreneur.

He only thinks in snowball.

Every component of every deal has the capability to snowball. Everything has high probability growth potential. I can’t ever remember Jimmy discussing a deal by saying, “that’s what we’ll sell. That’s that and we’ll move on to the next deal.”

It’s always designed to snowball.

But here’s the key. The snowball isn’t just for Jimmy, it’s for the clients too. He is a master at layering snowballs. Many deals involve three or four parties and Jimmy is particularly skilled at identifying each party’s needs; what they want and what they can give up without much pain. He sees multi-faceted win-wins like a Grand Master chess player sees so many moves ahead. And then he authentically articulates these win-wins so the clients see them too, which makes the sale that much easier.

How do I know Jimmy will be successful?

Eventually, a bunch of layered snowballs create an avalanche.

[photo by: nata]

Haiti: How you can help

(REUTERS/Reuters TV)

Today, it seems irresponsible to post about anything except the tragic earthquake in Haiti. The death toll is currently estimated between 30,000 and 100,000 but could be much higher.

The two best sites I’ve seen for clarifying how anyone can help are:

ReadWriteWeb’s post

Google’s Disaster Relief site (thanks to my friend Chris Czerwonka for pointing this one out)

It’s inspiring to see that the Red Cross has already raised over $800,000 by their text HAITI to 90999 to donate, program.

Retailer Lowe’s has also donated $1M and turned all Lowe’s locations into Red Cross donation sites.

Anonymous donors are stepping up:

As are well known celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

Others are on their way to Haiti

And some docs and nurses are flying free, courtesy of American Airlines:

Alltop has a page with lots of links.

Boston.com has posted many photos from the quake.

I’m impressed by the way that America and other countries have rallied to help Haiti and I’m thankful for the social tools that enable the information and aid to spread and grow faster than ever.

Please help in any way you can. Thank you.

Director of Phone

How absurd would it be to hire a “Director of Phone”?

Imagine proposing a job requisition for an “Email Manager” position?

Where would you go to hire a “Czar of FAX”?

Yet companies are hiring “social media managers” and “social media directors” to lead the “social media team”.

In a couple years, these titles will seem just as absurd as those above.

Social media needs to and will become (for those who get it right) integrated with all other functions and part of the fabric of the organization, just like phone, FAX and email did.

(The huge difference is that social media is the first of these kind tools that allows you to listen first.)

It won’t be a skill and it won’t be a department.

Precious Moments

At the end of a long day, you’re heading back to your hotel room. Alone in the elevator, you push the button for floor 26 and want nothing more than room service and maybe a shower before working a few more hours. Before the elevator door closes, a hand slices past the sensor and the doors reopen.

Richard Branson gets on and clicks floor 27.

What do you say?

(Replace Branson with Steve Jobs, Marissa Mayer, Russell Simmons or the person you would most like to meet, either professionally or personally.)

This used to be called having your elevator pitch ready. The truth is, most people don’t want to be pitched, although Sir Richard may be the exception.

Still, it’s important to be able to make the most of this precious moment.

How do you introduce yourself? What do you say after that? Is it a statement or a question? Do you praise them? Talk about yourself? Ask them an interesting question? Tell a joke?

The doors just closed. What do you say?

Add your thoughts in the comments. I’m really interested in what you all think on this one. Don’t forget to include who you would want to meet.

photo credit: Chris Heuer

Living your brand aftershocks

If customer engagement is the new marketing, customer experience is the new brand.

Brand in 2010 is the collective gut feel that customers have about your company. With the internet and social media, companies need to realize that they can no longer control their brand, as they have tried to do in the past, but instead they need to join the conversation and impact it by their actions.

When consumers think of most brands, certain words consciously or unconsciously come to mind.

Volvo = safety
Disney = imagination
Mercedes Benz = luxury
FedEx = reliable
Nike = sport

But in this age of being assaulted by brand messages all day everyday, brands also have what I’ll call aftershocks, brand thoughts that reverberate beyond the initial one like aftershocks after an earthquake.

While walking among the massive booths of the CES show floor on Day 2, I paid attention to whether the brands were living their aftershocks.

My client Altec Lansing’s brand is all about music. The aftershocks, the words that describe the gut feel we want to cause are “sound”, “fun” and “loud”. All day at the Altec Lansing booth, there was a huge Rockband contest with fun giveaways. Crowds formed, friends played against each other and everyone had a great time. Neighboring booths occasionally told us to turn it down a notch. At the end of the day, James Kyson Lee who plays Ando Masahashi on NBC’s hit show Heroes stopped by and jammed for a while.

In my admittedly biased opinion, Altec Lansing did a great job of living not only their brand but also their aftershocks.

Other booths that I visited that did a good job of living their brand and aftershocks:

Motorola – hip, fun, techy, useful
Intel – fast, cutting edge
Kodak – digital, new, capturing memories

Ford’s keynote was very impressive. They have not only reinvented their brand over the last few years, they have aligned everyone in the organization to live and breathe the brand and the aftershocks. Their SYNC and MyTouch technology will completely change the driving experience and it’s clear from listening to all of their keynote speakers that Ford’s brand is part of the fabric of the company.

What is your brand? What gut feeling are you trying to inspire in your customers?

What are your brand aftershocks? Are you living them?

Asking why

When phones were first introduced into workplaces, there was widespread resistance by management.

“Why should everyone have a phone? They’ll just call home.”

When FAX machines were introduced, there was a great deal of skepticism.

“Why do we need a FAX machine? We’ll never use it.”

When email became available for enterprise organizations, it was not quickly adopted.

“Why would anyone need their own email account? They’ll just email their friends.”

We’re seeing the same thing with social media. Some companies are embracing the new channels and opportunities and learning how to use them to improve their business.

Many are still stuck asking why.

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)

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.

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.

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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?

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.

A Goode lesson

After seeing the success of the “Best job in the world” contest run by the tourism board of Queensland, Australia, which drew almost 35,000 applications and put the obscure state on the map, David Ready, Jr., of Murphy Goode winery decided to run a similar contest.

Like the Queensland campaign, the publicly stated objective was to find someone to act as their social media marketer, blogging and tweeting about the product and the experience.

We at the Murphy-Goode Winery got to thinking about the new age of communications and we figured it was a pretty good thing. So to get going, we’re looking for someone (maybe you) who really knows how to use Web 2.0 and Facebook and blogs and social media and YouTube and all sorts of good stuff like that — to tell the world about our wines and the place where we live: the Sonoma County Wine Country.

In exchange, we’re offering you a “Really Goode Job” — a six-month job paying $10,000 a month plus accommodations!

We want to hire a social media whiz (your title will be “Murphy-Goode Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent”) who will report on the cool lifestyle of Sonoma County Wine Country and, of course, tell people what you’re learning about winemaking.

Full overview of the contest is here.

The real objective, of course, was the same as the Queensland contest, lots of free publicity and brand exposure, which is fine when executed correctly.

Murphy Goode had participants submit videos and then had viewers vote and rate the videos. The videos were re-posted on YouTube. Over the next few weeks, as viewers were able to vote for their favorite contestants, it drove a lot of traffic to Murphy-Goode’s website.

But the devil is in the details. This is where Murphy Goode tripped up.

The votes meant nothing. When the top vote getter by a large margin San Francisco’s Martin Sargent wasn’t chosen to be in the top 100, he tweeted about it. Then it was picked up by Digg founder Kevin Rose, who retweeted it. It made it to Digg and was seen by a few million people. Murphy Goode eventually apologized for the confusion on Facebook.

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But wait, before you pour out all your bottles of Snake Eyes…

Murphy Goode didn’t break any of their stated rules. The contest never claimed the votes determined the winners but they weren’t as clear as they should have been that the votes were ‘just for fun’. Since we live, for better or worse, in an American Idol world, many assumed that the votes determined who would make the next round.

The lesson here is pretty simple. Be 100% transparent (and do it in large type). If voting is involved, make sure that the results of the voting are clearly understood and not in the fine print.

Like a few companies have and many companies will, Murphy Goode learned a lesson about the finer points of social media. That said, the huge “backlash” is overstated and misdirected.

This wasn’t a case of intentional deception, it was a case of naive omission. Overall, the net result will be positive.

(full disclosure: I enjoy shaking dice, so it’s hard to hate any producer that makes wines named “Liar’s Dice” and “Snake Eyes” that admittedly doesn’t take themselves too seriously.)

I applaud Murphy Goode for jumping in the pool, even if they splashed a little on entry.

Remarkable in 11 words or less

Here is a challenge that consists of two tests.

1) The Simple Test

Write an ad for your business (or yourself) using eleven words or less.

2) The Remarkable Test

Now, determine if what you came up with is remarkable, defined as, ‘would people remark on it?’.

Would they tell their friends?

Would they take a picture?

Would they tweet about it?

This test is much harder than the first.

Want an example? This humorous ad created for Durex by the Lowe Bull agency (in 2003) passes both tests.

Durex

Shorter is better

37Signals

An old French mathematician said: “A mathematical theory is not to be considered complete until you have made it so clear that you can explain it to the first man whom you meet on the street.”

Your key message, your unique product or service, your key point of difference should resonate with everyone.

(And surely your message isn’t as complex as a French mathematical theory.)

Boil it down until everyone understands it. Unless everyone can understand it, few people will.

Here are some quick ways to test this out.

Explain it to your dentist.

Explain it to your barista.

Explain it to your parents.

Explain it in 140 characters or less.

How to talk to a CEO

Handoff

You did it. You finally got a 10 minute phone call with the Julie Johnson, CEO of WhatACompany.com.

The call is going well. She seems genuinely interested.

So you keep talking. After all, you have 4 minutes left. You’re on a roll. Surely some additional clarification can only help.

Then you ask for the close. You ask Julie to agree to the deal. She backs out and says she’ll have to call you back. But the call never comes.

You shake your head. She was interested. Where did it go wrong?

You didn’t treat her like a quarterback. Winning quarterbacks, like CEO’s, run the team but they don’t run the ball. Their job is to analyze the situation, call a play and get then safely hand off or pass the ball into the hands of other talented players.

Julie had no desire to ‘run the ball’. She is too busy and has 50 other plays to run. Once the CEO is interested, as quickly and firmly as possible, ask her who else you can work with to execute.

Listen and learn

Listening to customers isn’t a new concept but (most) companies have come a long way from those comment cards in small wooden boxes.

Dell computers has Ideastorm, a website where anyone can go on and post an idea, suggestion or even (gasp) a complaint.

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Starbucks has a similar site at MyStarbucksIdea.com.

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One customer posted his idea requesting the ability to “buy a friend a coffee” remotely. The idea has 35,450 total points and 272 comments (and counting). There is even an official response from Starbucks letting users know that this idea is now “under rest view” by management.

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Sites like Ideastorm and MyStarbucks are brilliant. They push the envelope by not just listening to customers but allowing them to participate in the entire idea generation and implementation process.

Dell and Starbucks now know:

1) What their customers like
2) What their customers don’t like
3) What their customers want that they don’t have

How are you listening to your customers? How are you capturing what might be your company’s best new idea?

Sites of this scale aren’t necessary for all companies but if you have thousands of customers in multiple locations and the only way you “listen” to them is a support email address or a Twitter account, it’s time to upgrade the wooden box.

Ask the right people the right questions

My father once told me this when I was about ten years old:

“You can accomplish just about anything you want if you ask the right people the right questions.”

It seems so simple, but imagine the number of scenarios where this skill is critical:

– at a doctor appointment
– applying to school or for a new job
– getting your car fixed
– determining where to eat
– buying a new home

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Often, errors can be attributed to asking the right person the wrong question or asking the right question but the wrong person.

Ask the right people the right questions. So simple. So effective.

Where should we Tweet tonight?

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Everyone is worried about Twitter’s business model. Will they last? How will they make money?

Kogi isn’t worrying. The Los Angeles-based roving Korean-style taco vendors are using Twitter to improve their own business model.

Since the cultishly popular Kogi BBQ trucks are mobile venues, they use Twitter to broadcast the location and menu items to their legion of fans.

Recent Tweets from Kogi:

Heads up guys! Kogi Roja will be at The Brig in Venice @ 11 o’clock!

KOGI SPECIAL! Korean Burger w Chile Salted Watermelon! @ ALL LOCATIONS!

Kogi is in Santa Monica @ Bergamont Station @ 2525 Michigan Ave. SM. Santa Museum of Art. OPEN TO PUBLIC.

Kogi’s food is cheap, unique and fun, but adding scarcity to the equation ensures something else: the thrill of the chase. Kogi’s trucks tweet their next location and before long, the line looks like the picture above. When the masses are served, the Kogi truck packs up, tweets a new location and by the time they arrive, the line is waiting.

The customers line up before Kogi gets there. What a great business model. Even Steve Jobs can only pull that off once a year.

And like another popular Californian fast food institution used to do, Kogi keeps some of the menu items reserved for ‘insiders’. Right on the trucks, Kogi’s menu lists a few items, including tacos and burritos stuffed with Korean short ribs, spicy pork, chicken and tofu. But Kogi’s Twitter feed lists even more.

This doesn’t have to be limited to Kogi and fast food. Next time I find some perfect tomatoes at the Union Square Market, I can tweet the location and the vendor and add the hashtag #tomatoes.

Let’s all stop worrying about Twitter’s business model. Instead, think about how Twitter can improve your business model. The possibilities are endless.

Never say Thx

improve your subject lines

Next time you write an email, take an extra two seconds to write a descriptive, clear subject line that explains what the email is about.

Examples of horrible, time wasting subject lines:
– website
– my flight
– meeting
– Pls review
– Status?
– Thx

Here are those same subject lines, improved:
– So many orders…Our website is down!
– Confirmed MSP to LGA this Friday – arrive 10:20pm
– Friday meeting with Ms. Alba – Les Halles or Bridge Cafe?
– Please review this Gladwell article and reply by EOD
– Status update on Rodriguez steroid story? (due 3pm today)
– Thanks for speaking at our conference – rave reviews

If you do email marketing, check out this study by MailChimp.

We all receive far too much email. When people check their emails on a mobile device, they may only see the start of a subject line, not the whole thing. So you need clear and concise subject lines that describe the content.

If you respect the recipient (and if you don’t, you’re a spammer), take the extra two seconds to write a quality subject line that will help the receiver identify and understand the email.

Thx.