Agile Marketing #9 – It’s your job to make yourself better

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This is the 9th in a series of posts on Agile Marketing – the working definition of which is to “Create, communicate and deliver unique value to an always-changing consumer (or business) in an always-changing market with an always-changing product.” (see the original post here.) Another tenet of your Agile Marketing strategy should be you – how are you making yourself or your team better, so that you are changing along with the conditions and market around you?

Principle 9: It’s your Job – be good at it.

The best measurement or yardstick of your success is going to be your own assessment of progress against your own goals (so, you should have some goals.) These might not be the traditional goals of money, promotion, things, or success – they might be moments in time that you can identify that will consistently make you happier – and the rest of the world might not know when you achieve them. Living well is your job, so get better at it.

Here are a few ways to measure how you are making yourself better:

  • Identify individual moments of excellence that you can prototype today, solidify tomorrow, and cement through practice and process.
  • If external validation is important to you, observe what sorts of behaviors get external validation, and practice those behaviors
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself – failure is a sign that you are calibrating your goals high enough so that you don’t meet them constantly

Everyone’s had that “a-ha” moment – you might experience it in the doing, when you experience a state of flow or a runner’s high – or realize it afterwards, when you solve a problem that’s important to you. These individual moments of excellence might be big (running a marathon, completing a big deal, or understanding a difficult concept) or small (realization that you can take the afternoon off, eating pie for breakfast, or instantly nailing a problem on the first try.) If you catch yourself doing something right, make sure to recognize that event as a prototype, and think of ways that you can repeat it and solidify that feeling or action.

Give yourself bonus points if you can determine a way to practice that feeling and develop a process around it. Your practice and process might only enable you to set up a condition where the success might occur again (think going to the batting cage to practice your swing so that the next time you see a curve ball in a game you’ll really be able to pull it down the line) or might be the exact copy of your success (remembering to stretch each morning so that your muscles don’t get sore.)

The things that make you better might not be the things the rest of the world cares about or for which it offers external validation. So if it’s important to be recognized by the outside world (where you measure that in money, fame, awareness, or generalized success) go watch successful people and see how they behave (or how they portray their behaviors in the media. There are many ways to learn about successful people online and to examine the things that they write and the way that they interact with their public through social media. Just like professional ballplayers don’t hit a curve ball overnight, many successful people that you meet are the product of years or decades of learned or intended behavior. So the tiny habits they start today are likely to be the trends tomorrow (or months or years from now.)

And, don’t be too hard on yourself. Failing is a sign that you are setting your goals high enough so that the success can be meaningful and not just the result of showing up. Yet, paradoxically, the just showing up is a necessary and not sufficient component for success. It’s your responsibility to make yourself and your team better, and you should be working at that every day.

3 Things We Can All Do To Make Our Emails Better

I hope that you’re enjoying a pause right now and thinking about the people and things that matter most to you.

A friend shared this article with me about Volkswagen’s effort to limit after-work conversation and it struck a chord with me – that we should all think about ways to improve our communication style and that there are simple, concrete things we can do to improve this communication.

Tell people what you’d like them to do, not how you’d like them to do it

The better you can share what needs to be done and to make it factual, the more likely you’ll be to get the results you want. To that end, keep emails short and to the point – emotional conversations should happen using the phone or in person. There are lots of great resources to help you do this, including the Three Sentences technique.

Ask for what you want

In each email, make it very obvious what you’re requesting. If you ask for one or two things in each email – detailing who you expect to do the thing, what it should look like when it’s done, and by when it should be completed – you’ll have a task blueprint that should be pretty clear to another person (and not just to you.) There are many frameworks for these goals – one common one is the SMART goal.

Be a Great Copywriter

Finally, imagine that your email (just like your blog post) is competing for attention with everything else someone might be doing in a day. To that end, you really need to write a great headline or subject to your email to make sure it gets read. It’s best if that subject line is actionable – giving a call to action, a hint at the result, and seems bite-sized enough to represent the smallest big thing that someone might decide to do today. To that end, please try to implement these three suggestions in your next email.

Why Improving things by 10x Matters for New Product Adoption

Picture by Kevin Steele

I’ve now got 500 (probably 800) channels and there’s nothing on.  Well, I’ve overstated the fact.  I have about 30 movie channels, at least 7 channels dedicated to major sports leagues, and innumerable shopping, food, and car chase channels.  I recently re-entered the world of Comcast HD for the purpose of getting better internet access, seeing a few more sports events in HD, and for the On-Demand video service.  Yet a funny thing happened.  In the midst of the content overload, I realized that having more bandwidth is … fabulously good.

Before I had DSL and had modest speeds (3mb/s down, 768k/s up).  This was fine for most internet surfing, though working at home and uploading large files sometimes seemed a bit pokey, especially when using a VPN.  Yet now I have 10 times the speed.  Ten times the speed.  I now understand the benefit of improving a product or service by 10x.  It shakes you out of your current behavior and provides an opportunity to try new things and get new benefits.

In the classic HBS Article Eager Sellers, Stony Buyers: Understanding the Psychology of New Product Adoption, John Gourville posits (and proves) that sellers overvalue the benefit of the product they are selling by 3x. He also finds that prospective buyers overvalue the benefits of the product they have by 3x. To overcome this stasis, entrepreneurs need to provide a 10x improvement to break through the behavioral trigger that stops buyers from buying when they ought to find benefit.

I didn’t realize that I was getting a 10x benefit in network speed by changing my subscription. In fact, it took a lot of pain (loss of channels, high customer acquisition cost through subsidy by Comcast, and a visit by a technician causing me to wait almost a week for new service). Yet now all I can think about is what I want to do with an extra 9x of bandwidth. I can now stream music, watch an movie in high definition as soon as I want it, and download and upload files with ease. I wonder what the next big idea will be now that I am no longer stuck in the same old rut.

Moving to a startup has provided a similar eye-opener at work. And it provides another eye-opener: our current and prospective customers need the same 10x improvement to believe in our work, to trust us with their time and effort, and to be truly wowed by the improvements we build. This is why improving things by 10x matters, and why it should be the goal of any entrpreneur or person.

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