Ignore Old Problems...Find New Ones

Historically, most markets were constrained by geography and the lack of portability of what was on offer. If you were a blacksmith, you worked for your town and the occasional passer through. And there wasn’t much demand for shipping because it was easier to replicate the work than to move goods. Same goes for the modern lemonade stand. One shop for the visitors to your corner of the neighborhood. Another one for the neighborhood next door.  

It took a while but two things eventually happened. People learned you could charge a premium for higher quality and unique products...which created choices. People like choices. And modern transportation and the internet solved the constrained market problem…these products could now be had anywhere. People like immediacy and convenience. These trends created tension for some and possibility for others. The people stuck on solving old world market problems with old world marketing failed. The others ignored the old problems and started solving new ones.

If the market is constrained by virtue of what is on offer, i.e. a restaurant or a gas station, not only do you need to solve how to earn enough trust to create loyalty from your neighbors. But you also need to solve how to become a destination to attract people from outside the neighborhood. How does the choice become compelling enough for people to consider and then make the journey?

Or if your offer is transportable, an ebook or a widget, how do you gain attention and earn trust in an increasingly crowded and expanding universe? How do you find and connect with the person who seeks precisely what you have made, even if you only need a few?

But what if you could remove all of the constraints, solve the problems of transportability, immediacy and could reach anyone that wanted one? What if you could create a new problem to solve? What if you were Dream Pops?

You can be…you just need to solve new problems differently.

Sent from my phone, please excuse brevity.

But why?

Most of the time we should demand it. 

Conveying a point should not be misconstrued with artful storytelling. Both have tremendous value. But too often, we add words to be kind, take the edge off or to assert status through our command of a larger vocabulary. Stories are necessary when we are sharing a vision…creating a mental picture of a place to go. But they aren’t needed when time is of the essence…because the receiver isn’t ready for a story. 

Less is more. And it takes practice.

Perfectly Imperfect

Perfect can’t be perfect for everyone. Because everyone doesn’t have the same problem to solve. Because everyone doesn’t have the same taste, or the same world view.

But perfect can be perfect for someone. So, the challenge isn’t to make something perfect. It’s finding someone who sees and believes exactly what you do…then make something for them. It will be perfect.

You're a graduate of a top 10 public university

I shuttered when this hit my inbox today. It should have made me feel accomplished. It should have reaffirmed my decision to choose the really famous school...the outcome my friends, family and future colleagues would find most comfortable. But it didn’t. It didn’t because I’m smarter now. And I now know what I couldn’t have known then. I know lists like these were created by marketers to grab the attention of would be buyers so they could turn that attention into ad sales. The by product is the benefit of a select few on the list to sell more stuff. And it’s the dream of being on the list that we chase thinking this is how you “make it”. And worse, not being on the list is what we fear the most...a badge of failure and not being good enough. 

But the caveat is now very obvious to me. 1. These lists aren’t created for individuals. And in a world of increasing value placed on bespoke, custom and “Wow, you did that just for me”, the aggregator of the top ten list is quickly losing its effectiveness. More and more people are now looking for the things not on the list…because often those things are the most satisfying to them (the Long Tail). 2. Being on lists like best seller, highest rated, five star and others doesn’t guarantee that you will actually create the change you are seeking to make. Rather it just ensures you are always chasing the artificial goal of being on a list. Sadly, this is almost a sure fire way to reach sameness…a race to the bottom.

As data becomes more and more plentiful, lists will change. Niches are being developed, on top of other niches. These new lists won’t be controlled by media in the same way as the old lists (until they can monetize the splinter lists). So for a short while perhaps, they will become more useful…to individuals with individual tastes, beliefs and values. But not until you stop clicking on the most famous and popular…works just like high school.

Show and Tell

The interesting thing about show and tell is that almost always it’s the show that’s the most interesting part of the act. A compelling visual subject can virtually stand alone...without any supportive words at all. Talking about slimy worms isn’t nearly as effective as letting people see and feel them. The same applies to presentations, art and science projects. And even more so to illustrating your work. Now it’s easier than ever to create a digital trail...a place for people to see you as an individual. Facebook and Instagram aren’t good places for this though...because they aren’t yours. You don’t control the canvas or how people will see it. Alternatively a website is still in your hands, at least for now. 

Anyone interested in showing their work can do this...

  1. But a URL (Your name if it’s still available. Or something unique to you)- $10-$15 annually 
  2. Buy printable business cards (the ones that come on 8X11 perforated sheets are inexpensive and widely available)- $10
  3. Print the URL on the card (nothing else)
  4. Hand out the cards to people (friends, family, co-workers...people who trust you)

Realizing the website is a blank canvas at the beginning, your job is to fill it up...with your interests, projects, hobbies, writings, videos of your dancing, how dogs make you smile and the toughest problem you’ve ever solved. The goal here is twofold...1. To create a place where people gain insight into your core values and your remarkable work; and 2. To practice putting yourself out there. Over time, the presentation will improve and you’ll become more comfortable handing that business card to more people.

Go show more. Perhaps you’ll need to tell less.

Stories Matter

A classic Mini Cooper once owned by Madonna is selling for $75K. But it doesn’t drive any differently than one for $15K. A modern Fender Stratocaster guitar made to look like a 1960’s model (they call it a relic) sells for three times more than a standard one. However it isn’t likely to make you a better musician. A hotel with “real” ghosts can charge 20% more. But the beds would feel the same if there weren’t any (ghosts). A welcome sign outside Hot Springs, Arkansas boasts “The Boyhood Home of Bill Clinton”. But there are a lot of other things to do.

Stories are important to us. They shape our worldview and determine how we feel. Look around you right now. Every physical element of the space has a story...some resonate with you more than others. Some remind you of another story, some create a story of the type of person who might have have made it, or the one that put it there. Some tell you a story of cheap, unimaginative or lack of enthusiasm...and make you feel uninterested, or even angry. Some tell you a story of craftsmanship, laborious design and attention to detail...and makes you curious and glad to be there. Of course, another person doesn’t see it that way. They find the vanilla one, the one you didn’t care for, much more interesting. The story was different for them. But there was a story. And it connected with them.

You have a story. Does it resonate with the people you seek to change? If not, can you change the story? Can you get Madonna to borrow it for a minute it? Or, perhaps you need to find new people? Or both.

Price and Trust

The two pricing strategies in their most simple forms…

Charge the highest price a large enough group will pay to maximize return.

Charge the lowest price we can afford to build life-long, loyal, raving fans.

One is based on trust and growing a fan base. The other on extracting the most from a fixed group.

Either will work for a while financially. But only one is designed to cause delight and earn trust…for a person to reflect on the sale, “Wow, I would have paid more for that”.

Underneath the market research and margin analysis, it’s an either/or philosophy. And you can only pick one…choose wisely.

Ban the Word Best

…in marketing. 

The word best has no place in marketing or in any conversation when trying to describe an idea, product, service or thing. Yet, it happens very regularly because it’s such a powerful word. And it’s a short cut. It’s a way of getting to the punchline of a joke without going through the trouble of telling it. But have you ever noticed how a joke is super funny to one person and doesn’t at all strike a chord with another? The same goes for your idea, design, meal or service delivery. Best is shaped individually from individual world views and the individual stories people tell themselves. And the suggestion that your thing is the best implies that everything else in this category is flawed in some way and that somehow you have solved all of the problems associated with this thing. And even if you did…which problems need solving in the first place? The Google Pixel and the Apple iPhone are both the best for someone…but not for everyone. 

The more effective (yet far more challenging) approach when describing your thing is to define it’s unique position in the world with true stories that will emotionally connect with some people. Your job is to find an audience which values these individualities as much as you do. To them, your idea is the best. But you never claimed that spot…they did.