The timing of side effects

Loosen the constraints on a system and the system will almost always do better in the short run.

That’s if we define better as the visible outputs of what the system does. And short run as, “the stuff that happens before we have to live with the side effects.”

So… if you remove environmental regulation from a factory, it will probably make more stuff faster. For awhile. But then the river is sludge and the workers are dead, so in the long run, not so much.

If you stop paying taxes, you’ll have more money today. But the civilization you depend on to enjoy that money will soon disappear.

If you stop taking medicine because you don’t like the stomach ache it gives you, you’ll definitely have a better day today. Until you stop having a better day, because of the illness that comes back because you stopped taking your medicine.

All side effects are more simply called “effects.” And getting clear about the time frame we live in is the first step to leaving things better than we found them.


Accountability vs. responsibility

Accountability is done to you. It’s done by the industrial system, by those that want to create blame.

Responsibility is done by you. It’s voluntary. You can take as much of it as you want.


Organized crime

Best I can tell, most of the folks in the organized crime industry care a lot more about the ‘organized’ part than they do the ‘crime.’

Organized as in: who’s up and who’s down. Who gets to decide. Who’s in charge and who has power.

The crime is simply a shortcut.

The same is true for people on Wall Street. The money is simply a means to keep score of the organized part.

When people are willing to sacrifice their principles to take shortcuts, when they’re willing to bully or cheat or lie to get more status, we are understandably disdainful. Because the boundaries matter. Because we can see that once someone is willing to cheat a little to win, they’re probably willing to cheat a lot.


On finishing well

If you start a book, you will do better if you have a plan for finishing your book.

If you take the time and spend the money to go to college, it’s worth considering graduating as well.

Aretha Franklin died without a clearly stated will. As a result, her heirs will waste time, money and frustration, because Franklin was both naive (a will doesn’t make it more likely that you will die) and selfish.

If you’re born, it pays to plan on dying.

Every year, millions of people needlessly suffer in old age because they didn’t spend twenty minutes on a health care proxy.

If you’re going to take a job, everyone will benefit if you think about how you’re going to leave that job.

And if you start a company, you should realize that you’re probably going to either sell it or fold it one day, and neither has to be a catastrophe or a failure.

Beginning is magical. So is finishing. We can embrace both.


What can a Company do to Deliver Experiences and Satisfaction?

The best companies are defined by priorities, not bound by capabilities. Horace Dediu uses Apple as a lens to analyze business strategy#: Apple, since its inception, has always been oriented around its customers, not its products. The questions asked by management are “what can the company do to deliver experiences and satisfaction” rather than “what products can the company build”. Here’s the difference: A priorities-driven company habitually re-designs its processes and its resources. A resources- or process-driven company re-designs its priorities as its capabilities change. It’s not just semantics. Further down: Companies sell objects or activities that they can make…

8 Rules For Lead Gen Forms: A Rant

TL;DR: Don’t use lead gen forms to abuse potential customers. Don’t sacrifice reach for low-quality leads. And a few other tidbits.

An intriguing ebook title zipped by in my Twitter feed today. The landing page described the wondrous information in this piece of content. All I had to do was provide a little info:

An Insane Lead Gen FormAn Insane Lead Gen Form
This Is Insane

This is madness.

All that information to get an ebook. Not a Gartner Magic Quadrant. Not even a free Kit Kat.

An ebook.

Brands don’t get it. They build lead gen forms that demand an absurd amount of information for scraps of content. Then they wonder why those forms don’t work. And so, my rant, in eight parts:

1: Lead Gen Forms Are Not Surveys

Surveys collect data. Lead forms collect potential customers. Don’t get cute and try to combine them.

The nutjob form above, for example, asked me “What is my biggest challenge?”

My biggest challenge is getting used to progressive lenses and answering inane questions when I’m trying to download your ebook.

MY POINT being that the rules below do not apply to surveys.

2: Most Leads Don’t Like You (Yet)

They didn’t want to fill out that form. They had to. They don’t want to hear from you. They’ve set up separate spam collection email accounts to trap and ignore your follow-ups. Most site visitors just want whatever’s on the other side of that form.

Best case, you can change them from detractors to fans. To do it, the content you provide had better induce a state of trembling euphoria.

Or, you can make it easier for a visitor to get your content.

Require less. Deliver more.

3. More Fields Mean Fewer Leads

Every field you add to a form cuts the number of leads by 25%.

That’s my pseudo-datapoint for this post. It’s based purely on instinct and anecdotal evidence. Please don’t start throwing it around in meetings.

Marketing and sales teams will say, “Yeah, but those leads are better qualified.”

Nope. Incorrect. False. Faulty. Untrue. Erroneous.

On to #4.

4. Extraction Does Not Equal Qualification

“Qualified” means “likely to buy.” It does not mean “survived excruciating data extraction.”

That tedious form just set my teeth on edge. I’m not more qualified; I’m uncomfortable. I feel like a sucker.

How many qualified leads did you lose because they wouldn’t fill out that ridiculous form? Lots.

Also, see #2. See #5.

5. Don’t Sacrifice Reach For Lousy Leads

Detailed lead gen forms sound great, but you’re trading reach for leads. Be mindful of that. Every person who sees your content and likes it is a potential customer, but they’re more than that—they’re a prospective salesperson. They may pass your ebook or whatever along.

They might talk about it. Or tweet it.

They’re more likely to do that than reply to your inevitable follow-up email.

Note: I am not frolicking in the happy fields of brand building. Lead gen forms are a great way to capture leads, but they’re not the only way. Every reader is a potential lead. Want leads? Get more readers.

6. Open-Ended Questions Suck

The “contact us” form on Portent’s site has an optional, qualitative question: “How can we help?”

I just checked the data. In the last thirty-six hours, thirty-five people have completed the form.

  • Five of them used the “How can we help?” field.
  • Four of them asked if they could write a guest post on our blog.
  • One talked about biological acts using language I wouldn’t repeat on the subway.

Open-ended questions are lousy lead gen tools. If you must have one, make it optional.

7. Enrich, Don’t Demand

Be patient. Instead of demanding a ton of information up front, enrich it over time.

Start by giving me something useful in exchange for my name and email address. Now I like and trust you.

Next time, ask me for a little more: My company and my title, for example. In exchange, give me something even better.

Then offer me personal contact for even more information. Provide a free consultation in exchange for my phone number, the size of my team and my budget. Provide access to a private Slack channel, or a subscription to an exclusive newsletter.

Please make me a fan, not a lead. I’ll love you for it.

8. Other Rules

Keep these in mind:

  1. If you check the “Please send me information” box by default, you deserve a special place in Hell. Belay that. You deserve a whole separate hell. Just for you.
  2. For every breathlessly, ridiculously obvious statement you make in your content, remove one field from your form. If you say “Today, in [industry][thing] matters more than ever,” ungate your content and back away slowly. Please don’t take this personally. I’m as guilty as you are.
  3. If I hit [TAB], I’d better advance to the next field.

That’s It

I tried to come up with a pithy conclusion. I finally developed one using ten years’ data across 3,000 customers. If you want to hear more, please fill out this form…

The post 8 Rules For Lead Gen Forms: A Rant appeared first on Portent.

Defective apologies

Civilization depends on the apology. When humans interact and something goes wrong, the apology builds a bridge that enables us to move forward.

But apologies are failing more often. Two reasons: First, organizations aren’t humans, and organizations often seek to avoid or industrialize the human work that civilization needs. And secondly, the apology is a complex organism, one with many structures and purposes, and our culture models (or fails to model) how it’s supposed to be done.

Consider that we can say, “I’m sorry” at a funeral even if we didn’t murder the deceased, but we also say, “I’m sorry” when we bump into someone in a crowded train station and “I’m sorry” when we get caught shoplifting. Three different situations, with fundamentally different amounts of complicity, blame or guilt.

When someone accidentally bumps into us, we don’t expect compensation or punishment, but we very much want to be acknowledged. On the other hand, acknowledgment is insufficient when someone sought to profit from our pain.

We can start by asking, “what is this apology for?” What does the person need from us?

  • To be seen
  • Compensation
  • Punishment for the transgressor
  • Stopping the damage

The first category is the one that most demands humanity, and it’s also the most common. A form letter from a company does not make us feel seen. Neither does an automated text from an airline when a plane is late. One reason that malpractice victims sue is that surgeons sometimes have trouble with a genuine apology. This non-human behavior is getting worse and is being celebrated in parts of our culture (mistaking it for strength), which leads to a demand for the other three.

Compensation is the ancient tradition of seeking to make a victim whole. Unless the injury is solely financial, financial compensation is insufficient, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t tried to build systems that use money to atone for ills.

Punishment is different from compensation. Punishment allows the victim to feel seen, because he or she is now aware that the transgressor feels some pain as well. (Punishment is unsatisfying to the victim if he or she is unaware of it). Punishment is economically suspect, though, because other than the second-order feeling of being seen, the punishment doesn’t directly help the person who was injured. It also can spiral forward, leading to ever more damage.

And finally, stopping the damage, which often co-exists with the other three needs. This is the affirmative act of making sure it doesn’t happen again. This is correcting the website so that the next person who reads it won’t see the same error. This is fixing the railing so the next visitor won’t trip and fall. This is the organization investing time and energy to actually improve its systems.

Compounding these totally different sorts of apologies is the very industrial idea of winning. Victims have been sold that it’s not enough that your compensation is merely helpful, but it has to be the most. That you won the biggest judgment in history. That the transgressor isn’t simply going to jail, but is going to jail forever, far away, in solitary confinement. We’ve all ended up in a place where one of the ways to feel seen is to also feel like you came in first place compared to others.

There’s an old cartoon–an irate customer is standing at the complaints desk of a store, clearly not mollified by the clerk. She then asks, exasperated, “well, what if we shut down the store, burn it to the ground and run the owner out of town… will that be enough?”

The challenge that organizations have is that they haven’t trained, rewarded or permitted their frontline employees to exert emotional labor to create human connection when it’s most needed.

The traveler goes straight from, “my flight is overbooked,” to “I want a million frequent flyer miles and a first class ticket on the next flight.”

The patient goes from, “the scar on my leg isn’t healing,” to “I’m going to sue you.”

And the most common unseen situation is the customer who walks away, forever, because you have a broken system and you’re not hearing from your people about how to fix it.

Organizations that refuse to see the pain they’re causing because they’re afraid of being held responsible have missed the point. You’re already being held responsible. The question is what to do about it? You can stonewall, bureaucratize and delay, and hope that the system will suffice…

The alternative is to choose to contribute to connection by actually apologizing. Apologizing not to make the person go away, but because they have feelings, and you can do something for them. Apologizing with time and direct contact, and following it up by actually changing the defective systems that caused the problem.

“Yikes, I’m sorry you missed your flight–I really wish that hadn’t happened. The next flight is in an hour, but that’s probably going to ruin your entire trip. Are you headed on vacation?”

“You’re right, you booked a front-facing seat, but you got one that’s facing backward–and I hear you about getting motion sickness, my sister does too… I know that Amtrak has been having trouble with our systems, but I have the hotline number of the head of ops–I’m going to call and let them know.”

“Yeah, I shouldn’t have written that review. I was in a bad mood when I wrote it. I apologize. But, to set the record straight, I’m going to delete that review and write a new one, just as loud, but this time telling people about how much you care.”

Consider that an effective apology has a few elements to it:

1. You know what sort of apology you’re offering.

2. You share your story with the aggrieved as well as hearing their story, thus becoming human, and then taking the time to help them feel seen by you.

3. You engage with the person who was harmed and find out, beyond being seen, what would help them move forward, noting that it’s impossible to make complete amends.

[It’s worth noting that these are not the same steps you’d take if you’re simply hoping the person will shut up and go away, without you seeing them. That’s not going to happen, and acting as if it will, will only make your problem worse.]

Empathy –> Connection –> Trust


Built to a T: The Foundation of the Modern Marketing Agency

In the world of digital marketing, there is a growing demand for people who can do it all. Or, at least understand it all.

More and more businesses, from start-ups to well-established brands, are clamoring for marketers who can effectively run or guide an entire marketing program from beginning to end.

In response to this demand, many marketing professionals are striving to become full-stack marketers, believing it’s the leanest way to create value as a professional in our field.

While broad experience is necessary in today’s space, marketers must have a substantial depth of knowledge in at least one marketing channel or element as well.

As we develop our marketing team at Portent, we focus on building T-shaped marketers. Although not a new concept to employee development or marketing, the foundation of it remains tried and true.

The T-Shaped Marketer

Successful marketers need a strong understanding of the different elements and channels of digital marketing. But to generate exceptional marketing results, great marketers need to have in-depth expertise in at least one area or skill set as well.

We approach this concept with an agency model in mind because well, we’re a digital marketing agency. Regardless of the space you find yourself in, whether that be a marketing leader in the agency world, in-house for a brand, or as an independent freelancer, this concept scales across the digital marketing landscape.

Originally coined in the early 1990s by David Guest and later popularized by Tim Brown, T-shaped marketing means mastering the basics and then diving deep to become an expert in a specific area. The horizontal bar of the T represents the width or breadth of knowledge and the vertical bar indicates the depth.

There are many different versions of what this could look like, but for an example, here’s what an SEO practitioner’s skill set looks like at Portent:

T Shape Digital Marketing StackT Shape Digital Marketing Stack


An idealized representation of a T shape can be a bit intimidating.

“Marketing” covers a wide swath of focus areas, and these Ts seem to imply that a marketer must possess a nearly superhuman command of an incredible set of skills.

Becoming a T-shaped marketer does not mean you are expected to know it all. The depth of knowledge you possess in a few areas will supplement the breadth of knowledge rounded out by an individual’s skill set.

What’s important when developing T-shaped marketers is that they understand the foundations of digital marketing and, just as importantly, understand how they leverage each other.

Just as there’s no magical formula for a perfect digital marketing strategy, there is no one-size-fits-all model of a “perfect T.” Instead, envision a flexible model where the shape of the T is unique to each individual. What’s unwavering in that flexibility, however, is a deep technical understanding in at least one marketing channel or element.

Building T-Shaped Marketing Teams

When building a marketing team for your brand or the next client you engage with, think about the entire spectrum of marketing you need to support. A successful T-shaped team should include people who are really good at a few key areas, have a solid understanding of the digital marketing landscape, and have a thirst for learning and sharing what they know.

At Portent, we achieve this by prioritizing the hiring of T-shaped marketers around the services we offer to our clients—each with their own passions and specializations.

When we do this, we get a collaborative, cross-functional team that can see the whole picture and support each other’s strengths and weaknesses. These cross function teams understand how their work leverages each other.

Hiring for the Soft Skills

Approaching the T shape is a great way to identify tangible industry experience, but there is more to becoming a great marketer than mastering the technical skills—especially when you’re putting together a full-stack marketing team.

In 2015, Irving Wladawsky-Berger wrote an article that discussed what he called The Rise of the T-Shaped Organization. He argued that today’s businesses must place a higher value on soft skills and look for people with adaptability, cultural competence, 360-degree thinking, intellectual curiosity, and empathy.

In the agency space we live in, hiring for soft skills is just as—if not more—important than finding people with great technical skills. At Portent, we look for six attributes when hiring, that are at the core of our philosophy. SHIFTS is everything to us—it’s how we approach our work every day and it’s how we test ourselves against everything we do.

We don’t expect people to know everything from the start, but we don’t compromise on our core values. We do look for people with personality traits that align with our goal of developing T-shaped marketers. Doing that allows us to find the right people to build our team around.

We look for marketers who are strong communicators.

We look for marketers with high emotional intelligence.

We look for marketers who are genuinely curious about their craft.

We look for marketers who are fearlessly accountable for their work.

We look for marketers who love to teach what they do.

And we look for marketers who want to give back—to our agency, the digital industry, and the communities around them.

Yes, the digital marketing world is always changing. But being on the cutting edge of the latest trend or technology doesn’t mean forgetting “old school” principles of open dialogue, teamwork, and problem-based learning.

Building successful marketers and marketing team starts with bringing together people who are passionate about what they do, show compassion and empathy for others, and possess a desire to share and learn. Industry knowledge is essential, but so are the soft skills to bring it all together.

The post Built to a T: The Foundation of the Modern Marketing Agency appeared first on Portent.

The mob fears the truth

It’s not that they don’t know the truth (they might, if they stopped to think about it.)

It’s not that they want to know the truth, either. Information is available if they looked for it.

No, they fear the truth.

And being part of a mob is a good way to hide from that fear.


Want To Start Your Own Microbrewery? Here’s What You Need To Know…

Want to start your own microbrewery?  Here’s what you need to know… 

Microbreweries are exploding at the moment … not literally, thankfully!  The UK drinks industry is booming in the UK, with craft brewers everywhere concocting their own individual flavours. 

Did you know that there are now in excess of 2,000 UK microbreweries in production?  But, like any product, you’ll want to produce quality over quantity, and it’s clear that running a microbrewery can be a very energy-intensive process.  

A major problem that any entrepreneur will encounter when launching their own artisan beer is energy supply (especially if they’re off mains), and how to minimise costs.  In this article, LPG energy supplier Flogas hasome advice for those looking to kick-start their own successful brewery.  


It’s all about the hops!   

Of course, having the right equipment is important, but just as crucially the ingredients you opt for will dramatically impact the flavour and consistency of your beer. The beauty is that, with so many variations available, there are endless possibilities when it comes to creating something really unique. But not matter how distinctive the taste, you’ll find all craft beer is made up the following key components:   

  • Water - It may sound obvious, but water makes up around 90 percent of any beer. The pH and mineral content of your chosen water, as well as if it’s hard or soft, can also affect the end result. 
  • Barley This ingredient will have a big impact on the alcohol percentage of your beer and can dramatically affect the body, taste and aroma of your finished product. 
  • Hops All beers have their own distinctive tastes, and this is often a result of the hops. There are around 170 variations, meaning there’s plenty of choice when it comes to playing with flavour. 
  • Yeast - An invisible but key ingredient to any good beer – yeast has been used in beer brewing for centuries. Did you know though that yeast is basically a fungus that eats the sugars created in the malting processBy allowing it to ferment and feed off the sugars, alcohol is created as a byproduct. 


What equipment will you need?  

Passion is a must, but to keep your microbrewery going, you’ll also need to turn a profit before you go out of business!  

Choosing an energy strategy that will reduce your usage and keep costs down can play a big part in keeping your fledgling business afloat.  Microbreweries can be notoriously difficult to get off the ground financially, so by doing this, you can help boost your company’s profit margins.   

Before anything you’ll also need the right equipment to get you started. One of the main components in the brewing process is the mash system, which is commonly made up of the following: 

  • Mash tank Steeps barley into hot water and converts grain starches into fermentable sugars  
  • Lauter tun Separates the wort (or liquid) from the solids of the mash (much like a sieve) 
  • Steam generator Heatthe kettle, which is then brought to a controlled temperature before the hops are added 
  • Malt mill – Crushes the grain in preparation for brewing  
  • Wort Pump - Re-circulates the mash for a higher efficiency, enhancing the clarity and quality of the brew  
  • Plate Heat Exchanger/Wort Chiller Quickly cools the hot wort ready for fermentation  

 And this is just the mashing stage. Further to this, you’ll need a fermentation system (where yeast is added and sugar turns into alcohol), a cooling system (to prevent bacteria growth and where beer can be stored ready for sale), a filtering system (to get rid of sediment for a higher-quality product) andof course, not forgetting the sterilisation equipment (to ensure that bacteria doesn’t spoil your next batch of beer)  


How will you power your microbrewery? 

Launching your own microbrewery is no easy feat. Along with all the complications of the brewing process, the last thing you’ll want to worry about is extortionate energy prices, or an unreliable supply.  

Whether you’re connected to the grid and need a highly competitive, commercial gas deal, or you’re operating in a rural location and you’re looking for a dependable LPG supply, make sure you choose wisely.  

If you are considering LPG, (and are currently using oil or solid fuels), it’s worth noting that LPG e.g. a bottle or LPG cylinderis a cleaner, cheaper and more efficient fuel– one that could bring you major savings on your energy costs. With the lowest CO2 emissions of any fossil fuel, it’ll also mean a lower carbon footprint for your microbrewery.