Where Are We Trying To Position Ourselves In The Market?

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Wednesday, 9.12pm

Sheffield, U.K.

There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. – William Shakespeare

I’m on a bit of a hunt for blogs that justify my point of view.

Or, better still, blogs that have a point of view I can adopt.

Because the fact is most of us don’t really know what the right thing is to do.

We look to others – searching for clues to the ways in which they approach the world – to see if there are any lessons for us.

And this is an increasingly less diverse process as we are pulled inexorably to the few opinions that surface on Google.

For example, if you’re interested in people who write about technology and marketing in a relatively understandable way you’re pulled pretty quickly in the direction of 37 Signals / Basecamp and Seth Godin.

But then again, you find stuff like the picture above which I’ve adapted from one on Seth’s blog.

Today’s search actually started from a fairly innocuous point – I was wondering about how technology was being used for good.

Unsurprisingly others have thought about that as well – so you get Apps for Good and a grant funding programme called Tech for Good.

Which is perhaps a little too literal interpretation of what I was looking for.

Here’s the thing.

As techies, we get interested in the nuts and bolts of a thing.

Whether it’s useful or not is a side effect of curiosity.

But most people aren’t techies – but they like tasteful things.

For them, what’s important is the Art, with a capital A.

You find Art in good books, fine wines, elegant furniture and inspirational design.

Of course, there is technology in the background, behind the font engines and steam pressed wood, but no one sees it because they are too busy looking at the surface.

But if it isn’t Art – then it’s tacky and that’s junk.

It’s the difference between Lego and something that’s not Lego. It just doesn’t fit.

And of course, a lot of people make a profit by making tech tacky as well.

Think spam and cyber-crime and a bunch of other things the Internet has made it easier to find.

The question we need to ask ourselves, if we sell ourselves on being a business that uses tech, is which side of the tasteful / tacky line we’re on.

You’ve got to think about whether your business model is based on long-term value or short term opportunism.

Because that’s going to drive the way you pitch and present yourself.

You’ll experience this if you have a conversation with a really pushy salesperson who has been taught that the way to win is to keep you on the phone and sell you again and again on what they want regardless of what you say.

If it’s something you really want or need you don’t need the sales call.

You want to buy – and you’ll do it the easiest way you can.

If you don’t then you’re in for a draining conversation.

As someone said, in any sales call, someone ends up selling something.

Either the caller sells you that you need what they want or you sell the caller that you don’t.

In today’s world a pushy sales call is the audio equivalent of spam.

And it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing that because all the models we see of how sales is done emphasise the hard sell.

But the businesses that go the distance are the ones that can do the tasteful sell.

The ones where referrals bring in most of the business because you’ve done the hard work over the years of doing good for your customers.

Because when it comes down to it, we all know what good is.

As Robert M. Pirsig wrote in Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance “And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good – Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

How To Turn Your Service Into A Product And Why

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Tuesday, 9.02pm

Sheffield, U.K.

We have our factory, which is called a stage. We make a product, we color it, we title it and we ship it out in cans. – Cary Grant

You learn a lot just by talking to other people.

It’s such a natural thing to do that we often miss just how much is going on.

But there is a lot that goes into sending a message from one person to another and, as a result, a lot that can go wrong.

Which is why selling services is quite a hard thing to do.

When I talk about services I’m thinking particularly of the things that you find hard to explain right now.

And they’re hard to explain because they might be complex or fuzzy.

If you need to take the time to explain it or solve a problem for a client – then you need to bill for that time.

If you need to provide more service you’ll need to add people with the knowledge to provide that service.

That’s the way a law firm works, for example. They are experts in a particular area and you pay for their expertise in a complex area that you couldn’t manage yourself.

But the problem is that most service businesses make for lousy business models, if you think of them on a time and person basis.

And, if you do something that isn’t already a well known profession, you’ll struggle to explain what you do.

Unless you try and turn it into a product.

The main difference between a product and a service is that a product comes in a box.

Not literally a box, of course, but one that people can visualise and understand.

Describing what you do is then simply a matter of listing what your customer gets from you.

Take the business of financial modelling, for example.

I could tell you that I can help you automate business processes using Excel.

That’s a service. You could employ me and pay me on an hourly basis to work for you.

Or I could tell you that I have an Excel worksheet for a hundred bucks that will help you produce invoices.

You won’t need to pay ongoing subscription charges and it will save you hundreds in bookkeeping and accounting costs – paying for itself in a couple of months.

One description is fuzzy and the other is focused.

You can clearly make money from both.

The service proposition could make thousands with a client who gets what you’re trying to do.

But so could the product – because you could sell a lot more to clients who needed that product.

So why would you choose one over the other?

As always, there is no one correct answer.

Products are easier to understand and buy – so you have a better chance of making a sale to a new prospect if you offer them a product.

Once they know you and understand that you can solve more problems, then they might want your time and expertise as a service.

The thing is when you sell time you run out of supply pretty quickly and also find yourself resenting the hours you’re having to provide.

So even though you could provide a service focusing on products means that you’re selling quantity rather than time.

But these days the only sensible way to do it is to use technology rather than relying on people.

If your product scales by adding people at some point you’ll run into an overheads problem where you need to bring in so much cash to cover fixed costs that it starts getting pretty stressful.

The main point here is that you need to consider your product/service mix as part of your strategy to develop your business.

If you are too much of one or the other – you need to ask yourself whether that’s working for you.

If it is, then don’t change.

If it isn’t, then it’s worth trying to see if you could do better by marketing yourself in the opposite way.

Or, just being practical, using whichever pitch is the one the person in front of you is responding to best.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

How To Think About The Value Different People Bring To A Team

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Monday, 10.50pm

Sheffield, U.K.

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. – Isaac Newton

I’ve been watching programmes about Fog Creek Software on Amazon Prime recently – one called Make Better Software and the other called Aardvark’d.

They offer a glimpse into how a real software company works – something that most of us never get a chance to see.

They also led me to the blog of the co-founder, Joel Spolsky, and his thoughts on software development.

It’s not really updated these days but given he started writing in 1999 you can’t really get too upset about that.

Especially when you stumble on some quite interesting ideas pretty quickly.

Take this essay on icebergs, for example.

Most of us know bosses and managers who believe that you must have a specification in place before you do anything.

This point of view is not limited to bosses, however.

Many people also say they can do anything you want as long as you tell them exactly what you want.

The problem is that most people don’t know what they want.

What almost everyone can tell you, on the other hand, is what they don’t want.

It’s funny how the things we want to avoid come to mind so much more easily than the things we want to have.

So the smart person, according to Joel, gets that customers will never know what they want.

Instead, you have to build something that they can look at and tell you what they don’t like about it and what they want changing.

Another insight has to do with people on your team.

It’s tempting to think that everyone around you has to do something technical.

But the reality of most businesses is that only one or two people really need to be that technical.

And that’s because once a problem is solved using software or a system is created for a customer the jobs that are really needed are ones that focus on helping them.

If you’re going to build a company, in the beginning you need people who know stuff and can build stuff.

But pretty soon you need people who can bring in customers and keep them happy.

And that’s actually going to be the bulk of your workforce.

It’s tempting to think that you can make lots of money by outsourcing that work to someone else.

But the chances are that’s a mistake – technically and financially.

It’s not going to save you as much as you think and, if you’re going to be a customer, we already know that you don’t know what you want.

The lesson hidden in all this is really that working for someone else is hard to do.

It’s much easier creating a product and saying do you like this.

And you can do that even if you have a job.

You can wait to be told exactly what to do.

Or you can have a go and create something new and then see what the reaction is.

And if you keep doing that one day you’ll make something that the people who make decisions like and you’re on your way to creating a job or a business where you’re in control.

But it all starts with having a go and building something on spec – with the hope that it will be useful to someone else.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

Why What You Think Matters Much Less Than You Think It Does

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Sunday, 9.08pm

Sheffield, U.K.

We tend to be distracted by the voices in our own heads telling us what the design should look like. – Michael Bierut

Everything is a design problem.

The word “design” brings up different pictures for different people.

For some it’s about fashion, look and feel.

For others it’s about thinking and planning and structure.

But the design thinking approach can be used whether you’re trying to solve a business problem, make a website look good or sort out your LinkedIn profile.

And it starts by realising that no matter how much time you spend looking in the mirror and trying to see how you come across, you won’t get any closer to seeing how your prospective customer sees you without doing some more work.

That work usually takes the form of a conversation – one face to face perhaps, or one that happens using the information and interface you present to your prospects.

Luke Wroblewski, in his book Web form design: Filling in the blanks, calls web forms Brokers, because they talk to customers on your behalf.

You might have thought, until now, that the purpose of a form was to capture information from customers.

It turns out, instead, that they are a way for you to have a conversation without being there – if you design them right.

Wroblewski says that there are principles you should follow.

For example, no one wants to fill in a form, so make it easy to do.

They’re only going to fill it in if it’s worth their time – and it’s up to you to make it completely clear that it is.

And you can only do this well if you really understand what your customer is trying to do.

But at the same time is that actually the case – do you really need to get inside your prospect’s head?

We’re all sold on the idea that Apple devices can just be used – they’re intuitive.

But is anything really intuitive?

Some people argue that when say something is intuitive what we really mean is that it’s familiar – it’s something we know how to do.

So maybe the purpose of design is actually to give people what they expect.

And that gives us a clue as to how the world really works.

For example, the words a prospect uses to search for what you do may not be the same words you use.

So, if you want to be found on LinkedIn, which words should you use?

The answer is pretty obvious, isn’t it?

Some of my friends have learned this lesson better than I have.

They try and understand what the customers they want are looking for and then design their organisation and their communications to be in the right place – to be familiar.

After all, if you are good enough, maybe one day people will find you.

If you go and stand where they go to look you’ll almost certainly be found.

And if you look the part – if you’re familiar – then you’ll probably get the job as well.

You just need to get yourself out of your own way.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

How To Use Uncertainty More Effectively In The Real World

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Progress daily in your own uncertainty. Live in awareness of the questions. – Bremer Acosta, Stoic Practice

Some people are very sure of their place in the world and what they are here to do.

Some of us are less certain.

Certainty is a form of faith – a belief that needs no proof and is just accepted as true.

Which makes it hard to tell whether that faith really is true or if it’s misplaced.

And that makes it uncertain.

You may experience a similar problem when you try and think about how to describe yourself.

Are you where you are right now?

Or are you where you are going?

For example, if you work in an office doing analytical work but you really want to be a musician and spend all your evenings and weekends working on that, are you an analyst or a musician?

The Uncertainty Principle talks about two things – where you are and where you’re going.

And the more you know about one the less you can be certain of the other.

In a quantum world anyway – in a physical sense.

In the real world, the physics stops being an issue but that doesn’t stop us moving the principle into our mental worlds.

I copied the picture above from a cartoon because it expresses the uncertainty in life pretty well.

We spend most of our days being uncertain.

Uncertain of what customers want, what our partners want and what our pets want.

In business, especially, a lot of work goes into trying to remove uncertainty by making work transactional.

Something transactional can be reduced to the simple act of exchanging something well defined for money – a commodity trade.

And there are good arguments for going that way.

Many markets are opaque, hard to understand and don’t have good information – making it possible for people to take fees for helping you out.

Any market like that is an opportunity for someone who has the ability to open things up by using information.

Of course, that doesn’t remove uncertainty – it just reduces it or, more importantly, reduces the impact it has on you.

Take shopping on Amazon or Ebay for example.

Do you expect to get the best price always?

Or do you stop looking when it appears that what you have is cheap looking at the other options on the screen in front of you?

So what does this mean for you and me – how can you use uncertainty strategically?

First, here’s the bad way.

Many people believe that the way to get ahead is to project an aura of certainty.

That’s a salesperson’s training.

Believe in the product, believe in yourself and the self-talk will make the world bend to your will.

If you’re pitching and someone finds a flaw in your argument plough on regardless – your certainty and determination will get people to buy into you.

The second approach, and perhaps the more strategic one, is to look at the future as a distribution of possibilities.

You are – you have to be uncertain of the outcome.

There’s no other way to exist and be honest about the way things are.

But what you can do is reduce uncertainty – and you do that by combining distributions.

If you’re not into the math that probably doesn’t make any sense but remember what Scott Adams said about why Dilbert, his cartoon series, took off.

He was an average writer, an average artist and knew an average amount about engineering.

A career in each of those fields has a fairly wide probability distribution and his chances of wild success would have been low.

But, when you combined the three, you ended up with a much narrower distribution – how many people write and draw a cartoon strip about engineers?

What he didn’t do was create a niche in writing – for example focusing on science fiction.

He created a category all to himself by combining three normally unrelated things.

And the mathematical term for what this results in is confidence – something that in the real world also works very well.

In a nutshell, making your pitch on your certainty is asking people to believe in you.

Making your pitch on confidence is showing people how you have narrowed the range of possible outcomes.

Which do you think has a better chance of succeeding?

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

What Should You Think About Before Entering Into A Business Partnership?

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Friday, 6.29pm

Sheffield, U.K.

If you like a person you say ‘let’s go into business together.’ Man is a social animal after all, but such partnerships are fraught with danger. – Brian Tracy

Sooner or later there will come a time when you think of going into business with someone else.

What are the things you should think about before doing that?

There are two opposing viewpoints that are useful to consider at the start.

In one case you and a few others pool your capital and resources and start a business.

You’re all invested from the start – but how much of the business you get depends on the capital you put in.

In the simplest case the capital is the money you put in.

You are the owners – and that is that.

Everything that doesn’t depend on counting money gets complicated quickly.

At the other extreme if you’re a startup that wants to hire the best people out there but has no cash but promises growth you create an incentive plan.

One that is tax efficient and gives people a way to buy shares in the company – that is linked to how long they stay with you or how long you keep them.

And, predictably, there is an industry that has sprung up to advise you on the best way to do this.

Like most choices both work.

Sometimes.

Warren Buffett, for example, dislikes stock options.

He argues that the reason most companies use them is because of how they are treated by the tax collector – you don’t need to count them as an expense.

But if stock options aren’t a form of compensation, then what are they?

And if compensation is not an expense, then what is it?

And no one would argue that Buffett has built a sound business while holding that point of view.

The point of any form of compensation is that it is payment for a job well done.

If you want to be an owner in a business then start one, put your money into one or buy stocks in one.

But on the other hand you have companies like facebook and google that have made their employees rich and grown immensely large through the strategic use of such options.

So, what do you do?

Well, perhaps some maths will help.

Most startups will fail.

Some will prosper.

If you have a 10% chance of picking a startup that ends up with a very large valuation what do the numbers say?

Let’s say you get 10% of a company that is worth $1 million if it succeeds but nothing the other 90% of the time.

Your expected value is 10% x 1 million + 90% x 0 which is $100k.

Not bad?

Or the same as a salary with a side helping of worry and anticipation?

I think you’ll find when you look at it that the market will determine true value.

What you end up with is roughly the same as what you would get if you were paid for the job on average.

Yes there will be outliers but most of the time you’ll be in the middle of the pack.

The way to get a ten-bagger – to increase your return is to own your own business or buy into one that’s growing.

Which is why there is a story about a cranky old chap who never gave options – instead he gave his employees bonuses and told them they should by stock with their own money.

None of this probably helps you decide what to do because, quite frankly, there is no right answer.

Going into business with someone is like getting married.

And there’s an investment involved in getting married – you have to buy a ring – and the suggestion is that you should spend three months salary – a meaningful amount.

Perhaps that’s the test of a business relationship.

Are you willing to put in three months of salary into the business at a minimum?

If not, Then you shouldn’t even get started.

And then there is the business of being committed to the business.

This is not something you can do part time.

When you enter into a partnership with someone else that is a commitment – not something that you can simply do on the side.

Simply because things that are not central to you are the things that you drop first.

The business partnership that works the best is one where all parties bring money and commitment to the cause.

Everything else is a compromise.

And anything that involves compromise shouldn’t be started at all.

As someone said if it’s not a “Hell, yes!”, then it’s a no.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

Is This The Most Important Mental Model There Is?

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Thursday, 9.02pm

Sheffield, U.K.

There is no failure. Only feedback. – Robert Allen

I was driving along today when I found, rather to my surprise, that I was having an intense argument with myself.

Or, in any case, I was rehearsing one – for something that had been on the news a few days ago.

It turns out that there are species of insects going extinct at an alarming rate.

We don’t really think of insects that often – although we know they are important – more important than we are, in any case.

Someone said that if all the insects in the world died out, humanity would be gone soon after.

If, on the other hand, humanity died out, life on the planet would thrive.

Anyway, some chap on the radio said that throughout history species have died – that’s just normal and we should all stop making a fuss about these pesky insects.

At the time I paid no attention – but then today I realised that I had two reactions to that opinion – an emotional one and a rational one – that emerged while I argued with myself.

The emotional reaction was “That’s an incredibly stupid point of view.”

The rational reaction was, also, “That’s an incredibly stupid point of view.”

And it’s stupid for one simple and obvious reason.

Most species, when they go extinct, don’t have a say in the matter.

They die because their environment changes – land turns to desert, ice covers grass or an inconvenient meteor blocks out the sun for a year.

We’re different.

We know what’s going on.

And that makes a laissez faire attitude – one that simply stands by and says that’s just normal stupid.

It’s just as stupid as driving towards a tree and choosing not to stop.

Now, the point of this post isn’t to argue an environmental point.

You either already agree that people have a different level of responsibility for the planet we live on than the animals and other life forms that share it with us or you’re wrong.

It’s to ask whether the engineering model of feedback is the most important one there is.

Wherever you look inputs are transformed into outputs by a process.

Sand turns into glass, guesses turn into experiments and arguments turn into wrecked relationships.

Feedback takes place when the output from the process is fed back to modify the input so that the new output is closer to what we want it to be.

So, for example, you might create a new business because you think it’s a good idea.

It’s the actual sales numbers that, when fed back to you, will tell you whether you’re likely to succeed or fail.

Anything not based on the output is guesswork, opinion or wishful thinking.

So why don’t we use feedback – the real kind of feedback – that often?

One reason is that it’s hard to collect the data.

It’s much easier to hope that you’ll do well than take the trouble to interview a hundred potential customers to find out what they’re doing right now and the kind of jobs they need doing and seeing if what you have will do those jobs.

It’s also hard to remember to do things.

Like turning off the lights or setting the heating lower.

If you need to manually collect data and manually make changes you won’t do it for very long.

That’s where perhaps the best hope for humanity lies with machines that can manage vital feedback loops for us.

Like intelligent building control systems that monitor who is in the building and change temperatures as needed – like Nest does at home.

The harsh truth is that if we rely on humans to save insects that’s probably not going to happen.

We need to get the machines involved.

Machines and the control engineers who understand that feedback is everything.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

What Are The Keys To Making Lasting Changes In Your Life?

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Wednesday, 9.09pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. – Rumi

Management has to be one of the most pointless activities out there.

Who would willingly become a manager?

Become someone who has to watch others doing work and try and get the best out of them?

After all, managing oneself is hard enough without being responsible for other people.

One of the worst ideas in management is that you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

Think of something – anything that is good in the world.

How many of them were “managed” into existence?

Trees? Animals? Your family? Art? Books? Jeans?

A seed doesn’t need to be managed into existence.

You don’t need to measure and report key performance indicators.

Given the right conditions it just grows.

Wouldn’t you rather find the right person that wants to do work you need to get done and let them get on with doing a good job?

Wouldn’t that be preferable to managing them?

Thinking of life or business like gardening rather than managing may be a good idea.

Your job becomes one of planting seeds and nurturing them, protecting them and letting them grow.

Or, if you’re trying to change, your job is to find the right seed – the right behaviour, approach or strategy that will make a difference.

Then you need to make it ridiculously easy to do – you need to think small.

Big things are too big to keep in your head – too big to fight.

It’s too easy to give up when you have a big challenge.

Like running a marathon when you haven’t jogged in twenty years.

You need to start with something smaller – like walking every day.

And when you change you’re going to fail or not see results as fast as you want.

You could say, “I’ve been training for two weeks but I’m not getting any faster.”

Using the word but stops you in your tracks.

There’s nowhere to go from there.

Or you could say, “I’ve been training for two weeks and I’m not getting any faster.”

Using the word “and” seems unfinished. It feels like the word “yet” is missing from the end of that sentence.

You aren’t faster yet.

But you will be.

As long as you keep showing up.

Thinking is hard work – if you want to change something you have to make it automatic, something you do without thinking.

And the easiest way to do that is put it on a schedule.

If you want to get fit, get your exercise times in the diary.

If you want to create art or write – set time aside every day to do it whether you feel like it or not.

Deadlines are just pressure – they don’t help.

Showing up is what matters.

And then, if you’re trying to change something there is always the risk of sliding back to your old ways.

And it’s easy to do this when you come across an old trigger – something that prompts you to do what you used to do.

For example, if you go shopping hungry you know you’re going to buy some chocolate.

So, watch out – and avoid being in that situation.

Then there are bright line rules – things that are very clear, where there is a yes or no answer.

These are good.

The classic here is dry January – where people decide not to drink all month after the merriment of the month before.

It might not last – but it’s a pretty clear rule.

The thing with change is it’s hard – really hard.

And there isn’t a way to do it without some pain and effort.

But there are ways to make it easier to change something – whether it’s a habit or a process.

But to make it last you need to do it in a way so it doesn’t need ongoing management – so it manages itself.

Because anything that needs to be managed will stop working as soon as that manager stops paying attention.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

Why Getting Out Of Your Own Way Is The Key To Creativity

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Wrong turns are as important as right turns. More important, sometimes. – Richard Bach

You should never ask someone what they want.

It’s a question you shouldn’t even ask yourself.

Why, you ask?

There are three reasons, wrote Watts S. Humphrey in one of his essays:

First, people find it hard to visualise a solution to their problems, especially if they aren’t professionals in building those kinds of solutions.

Second, they often know how to do their job but not why. So, all they can show you are their existing, often manual, ways of working.

And third, if you do have a solution it could change everything about how they work and mean thinking again about what problem they have.

That’s why most approaches that focus on problem solving end up solving the wrong problem.

It takes multiple attempts to get to something that actually works for you.

As a professional, you come at things from a different point of view.

You’ve seen people experience problems that you’ve solved before, so you know what they need – a very different thing from trying to make what they want.

But that only works when you’ve been there and done it before.

When its something new you’re at the same place as everyone else.

And that’s a place filled with insecurity and angst.

Angst because, if you’re like most people, you worry that this time you won’t succeed – you won’t get it right.

And that’s ok – it’s just something that you have to get past.

But you can only do that if you have a way – a strategy ready for when that happens.

One approach that has had almost no traction is called Literate Programming.

It’s not the easiest thing to explain – but in essence its inventor, the legendary Donald Knuth, said you should first think about what you’re trying to do in plain language and then express it in code.

From that point the whole concept starts going downhill rapidly.

In an attempt to avoid that particular section of slippery slope we should talk about bread.

How would you make a mechanical breadmaker?

You might start by learning how to make bread.

The first time I tried doing that, we were in Italy and I was bored, and making bread seemed like a good idea.

So, I had a go.

It was a fairly angst inducing experience, given that I was guessing that flour and water was involved and had no books or Internet.

I’d forgotten about yeast and a few other ingredients, and the resulting block in the oven felt and tasted like a house brick.

So, I did some research, got a little focused and ended up with an edible loaf.

And it seems to me that any creative endeavour and, let’s face it, everything we do can be creative, needs an approach that lets us explore problems rather than trying to solve them.

If you’re writing a book or a program it makes sense to start by thinking and writing about your hopes and fears and expectations of what the thing will do.

Then you can come back and refine your thoughts, focus your attention and come up with a plan.

The book or program should then almost write itself – the result emerging from the cocoon of thought you’ve built up around it.

It feels sometimes that people are too eager to get to the end – without checking if the end they get to is the one they need to reach.

A little thinking might help – but it’s hard work.

Mainly because we need to admit that we’re unsure and need to look around, ask questions and experience things before coming up with a solution.

But if we do that maybe the result we get will be the one we need.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

What Is The Most Useful Way To Think About Your Marketing Tactics?

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Monday, 9.14pm

Sheffield, U.K.

One gets paid only for strengths; one does not get paid for weaknesses. – Peter Drucker

I’ve been thinking about a particular business and its marketing strategy for a few weeks now.

If you’re running something today you’re probably trying to win new customers.

And that needs them to know who you are – for them to be aware of you.

It’s the first part of any marketing formula, after all.

It’s also the part that takes time and effort and no small amount of self confidence or, at least, the effort to overcome a lack of it.

What does good look like when it comes to modern marketing?

Well, you’re probably all over social media.

Perhaps you have a video blog.

Maybe a regular one as well.

And of course you can’t forget offline networking and groups and all that stuff as well.

Clearly, doing nothing or just one thing isn’t going to work.

Publishing one article or running one ad may, like a one-legged stool, let you sit for a while but you’ll always be off balance and making quite some effort to stay put.

Having a few is better – certainly in the sense of giving you some stability.

But the real benefits come from having a number of effective tactics in play, something Jay Abraham calls the Parthenon strategy.

The idea is simple – the more pillars you have supporting the growth of your business the more likely you are to grow and the less likely you are to suffer a setback you can’t recover from.

So that’s obvious, I suppose.

What’s less obvious is that selecting which pillars to erect is a crucial task.

And the way to get started is by reading.

LinkedIn, for example, has a useful guide on how to use the platform well.

And it reinforces the basics.

People do business with people so your profile needs to be credible and give a good first impression.

People buy from you because of your approach to solving their problems.

So share information that keeps them informed about what’s going on, and what good looks like for them.

None of this is stuff I do particularly well.

And, if you’re like me, the chances are that you’re slightly suspicious of people who do it too well.

What are the sayings that come to mind?

  • All hat and no cattle.
  • All mouth and no action
  • All fur coat and no knickers

and many others…

Someone who has a lot of time to spend on sales must have less time to spend on doing the work.

Or is that just bitter and cynical?

Maybe they’re focused on getting the right message to the right people and see that as just as important as working on their product.

And they would be right.

For those of us, however, with less shine and polish there’s nothing stopping us from improving a little bit at a time.

What we need to believe is that persistence pays off.

What did Coolidge say?

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

The most dangerous thing is to think there’s some kind of silver bullet that will solve our problems.

But if we put the effort in day after day we should end up with a business built on marketing tactics that are solid and stable.

And perhaps even refined and polished.

Here’s hoping.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh