Things unknown

Knowledge is a great equalizer. It’s available to more people than ever before, in exchange for effort, and the person with insight has an extraordinary advantage over the one who doesn’t.

So, what don’t you know?

Which tools could help you do your work better…

What strategies have been proven to work in this situation…

What’s been tried that hasn’t worked…

Where is the line between the immutable laws governing this field and the variables that humans always create…

And, most of all, what do the people you serve truly need and want?


The 2020s: From the Lonely Chaos of our Digital Age to an Era of Humanity

In the 2010s, the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of superficial online communications at a time people are hungry for true human connection.


Two sides of the internet

The architecture of the internet is about choice. That’s where the resilience comes from.

Email can take one of a trillion paths to get from me to you. You have millions of pages to choose from when you want to read a blog post or learn a programming concept.

On the other hand, the business of the internet is often about no choice. Investors seek organizations that create natural monopolies, businesses with such significant network effects that they can clear the board and create infinite returns.

These network-effect businesses succeed at first because the benefits to each user are significant. We voluntarily choose to engage because it’s better (cheaper, faster, more fun) than doing it somewhere else.

But then, the implacable desire for ‘more’ kicks in and suddenly, this monopoly isn’t about serving us, it’s about enriching the owners.

And so the tension. The tension between the open resilient world of choice and the rigid and inflexible dominant monopoly.


The Coming Crisis Over Corporate Purpose

The World Economic Forum (“WEF”) is gearing up for its annual confab in the Swiss Alps by publishing a “Davos Manifesto” about company purpose. It smacks of dishonesty and desperation.

I caught the full-page ads in the Financial Times and New York Times which, interestingly, had different headlines: The FT called it “The Universal Purpose of a Company in the Fourth Industrial Revolution” while the NYT headline just read “A Company’s Purpose…”


To Bundle or Unbundle, That is the Question

For several years, I gave most of the presentations at the AT&T AdWorks Lab and of course, the entire discussion of un-bundling and cord-cutting was always part of the discussion. At the time, I used to say that I thought that cord-cutting was potentially more of a point in life thing and less of a generational issue. When you’re single and loving alone or with roommates, you don’t want to be the one stuck wit that monthly bill, so it makes sense. As you get older and have a family, you start to realize how much all of the channels cost to deliver all of the content you really want.


Keeping Employees Informed About Customer Experience Transformation Efforts

According to TechTarget, “Customer experience management is the collection of processes a company uses to track, oversee, and organize every interaction between a customer and the organization throughout the customer lifecycle.”

Gartner defines it as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.”


Top speed is overrated

The Amtrak Acela is capable of going well over a hundred miles an hour.

And yet, it’s not unusual for a 90-mile ride on the Acela to be only three or four minutes shorter than it would be on a more traditional train.

I can drive my Prius from NY to Syracuse faster than I can fly there. Even though a plane has been engineered to have a much higher top speed, the door to door costs of travel (security theatre, parking, checking in, the rest of the last mile once I land) aren’t impacted at all by the top speed of the chosen form of transport.

Top speed is easy to measure and fun to work on. But for most of the people you work with, there are dozens of factors that matter more than the easily measured versions of top speed that are talked about.

Fix the systems first. Look at the overhead of context switching. Bravery, empathy and other real skills matter far more than horsepower.


Slow is relative

In between the holidays, it all seems to slow down. Most days, there is little traffic on the road (or on websites). Fewer products launched, fewer inbound emails, fewer things to check off a todo list.

And yet, if someone in 1820 had lived at the pace we live in December 2019, she would probably have dropped dead from exhaustion.

A store in New York that feels slow this time of year might be recording record traffic if it had the same turnout in Scottsdale or Tempe.

Two things are true: The world is faster and crazier than it has ever been before. And the world is as slow and predictable as it will ever be again.

Bustle and crises are local conditions.

 

PS The last week of the year is quiet, which leaves time for new plans, new learning and new opportunities. I hope you’ll consider signing up for the ninth session of The Marketing Seminar (it begins in a few weeks, but if you visit today, you can sign up for updates). You can find my Udemy courses here as well.


Distracted by wide funnels

If you have enough at the top of your interest funnel, you don’t need to be very effective at conversion to seem successful at the other end of the funnel.

And so, a billion people visit Wikipedia and 32 million become registered users and 3,800 earn the privilege of being trusted enough to create a new article without oversight.

TED has a billion views which leads to 4,000 TEDx events that reach hundreds of thousands of in-person participants and 2,500 end up coming to Vancouver.

Kickstarter has millions of visitors, tens of thousands of projects and a few of those do more than a million dollars in revenue.

The internet has enabled the wide funnel, but it’s incredibly uncommon. That’s not because the last part of the process is difficult, it’s because the first part–becoming a huge hit–is. Best not to waste attention if you can avoid it.


On seeking a category

A new ice-cream shop opened up downtown. Do you want to go?

Every word in that sentence is easy to understand. We know that a ‘new ice cream shop‘ is a bit like the other ice cream shops in our experience, except a little different and probably better.

And where know where downtown is.

That’s a different question than:

Have you subscribed to Prodigy? (1989)

Want to see my iPhone? (2008)

Did you hear that podcast? (2004)

Do you know how to program an Arduino? (2016)

When you ask a question about a new entry that’s also in a new category, you’re now trying to do two things:

  1. Explain what the thing is. What it rhymes with. What it does. What the parameters are, whether it can be trusted to work, whether or not you’ll feel stupid doing it…
  2. Ask whether your friend, now that she vaguely understands what the thing is, even wants it.

I’ve been living in this state of mystery for three decades. I’ve been asked by generous and interested folks, “what’s email?” as well as, “what’s a cd-rom?” and now, “what’s the altMBA?”

First you need to explain the category (which is never glib or easy) and then you can help people figure out whether they want to leap or not.

This is one reason why competition is such a gift. If you have competition, now you have others helping you explain the category. With competition, you can say things like, “We’re like Uber, but without the scandals.”