My friend and super-talented art director and illustrator, Soren Thieleman, sent me this text the other morning:
“Good morning Bruce. I’m at a small café in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea and the door handle put a smile on my face. I haven’t tasted the food or had a sip of their coffee yet but I already like this place. It’s the power of a first impression and the impact of a creative surprise.”
I like this place too. Certainly enough to copy the name into the restaurant list on my iPhone and write a blog post about it.
What I like the most is not just the attention to detail of the door handle but the obvious delight that went into creating and sharing it.
Delight is such a simple thing to enjoy but seems so hard to create, especially in a commercial environment. And yet, when it crosses our path, we know something special happened and we remember it.
I still remember my first flight on Southwest Airlines when the announcer warned us to be careful opening overhead compartments because “shift happens.”
I remember waiting in line for lunch at Nordstrom’s restaurant when an apron-clad cook handed out small paper cup samples of their soup of the day.
I remember when the Wilford Brimley lookalike stable hand at the Yosemite equestrian center showed me how to get down to the lake to read my book while my wife and kids went horseback riding (I’ve been on horseback twice – the first time and the last time!).
It’s that gracious gesture, what Cajuns call “lagniappe,” that turns an ordinary occurrence into a memorable one. It’s the surprise you find in the bottom of the Cracker Jack box, the smile on Julia Roberts’ face when Richard Gere snapped the jewelry box shut in Pretty Woman, the complimentary copy of Winnie The Pooh that came with your iPad, the rainbow after a rainstorm, the dollar bill you find in an old pair of pants, or The Beatles’ song “Her Majesty” which plays 14 seconds after “The End” on Abbey Road.
Small delights are generally free, usually lighthearted, and almost always unexpected. In fact, they seem to show up when things look a bit bleak and gray (on a crowded airplane, following a dreary and wet thunderstorm, after the last song of a great Beatles album, etc.).
Small delights are hard to create but easy to identify. Most importantly they are an incredibly cheap way to build customer satisfaction and encourage repeat usage.
Have you had your small delight today? Has your customer?
A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
A few hundred years ago it was easy to know what someone did for a living. Mr. Shoemaker made shoes. Goldsmith hammered precious metals. Tailor sewed. Farmer farmed. Baker baked.
Today, it’s not quite that simple. When was the last time you met someone named Dr. Radiologist? Mr. Hedge Fund Manager? Ms. Account Executive?
Does Jackson’s father fix flats? Does Ms. Webman work on the Internet?
Of course not. Today we are free to pick the profession we think we’re qualified for regardless of what name we were born with.
So why is it we still use century’s old nomenclature when we describe ourselves to others?
Picture this: You’re at a party. You meet a new person – you tell them your name and they tell you theirs. The next thing out of your mouth is, “what do you do?”
If we still used the old system, being named for what we do, that question would be superfluous – our names would tell our new friend exactly what we do for a living.
But the bigger question is why is what we do so important that it’s the second thing we ask? Wouldn’t it be more interesting, and more instructive to find out, “who are you,” “what are you passionate about,” or “what’s important to you?”
Wouldn’t we know more about our new acquaintance if we knew that they were an hospice volunteer, that they collected 18th-century pastoral oils or that they recently emigrated from Perth, than that they were a lawyer or an accountant?
As we’ve discussed so many times before in this blog, what we do is cost of entry. Just like an empty restaurant that serves good food, if we’re not good at our jobs, no one will hire us. But just because we are good at our jobs doesn’t mean anyone will hire us, either. Why? Because people don’t buy what we do. They buy who we are.
In his 2006 book, A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink says that the way to assure yourself of business success is to create a compelling product persona that no one can copy. Pink’s example? Madonna. According to Pink, Madonna is the perfect business model because people don’t just buy what she does – singing and dancing – they buy who she is: Madonna.
(Of course, Pink published his book before Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta repurposed Madonna’s act and created Lady Gaga, successfully selling an old persona to a brand new market.)
Instead of focusing on the things we do, our prospecting focus should be on who we are and why that resonates with our customers and potential customers. Because even though the service we sell may provide the actual result our customers need, it’s the relationship we provide that will entice them do business with us instead of our competitors.
I think it’s such an important reminder that I had it engraved where I’d see it over and over every single day – on my new iPad: “They don’t buy what you do. They buy who you are.”
The other day I read a Twitter post that said, “I just saw Madonna riding the subway.”
A few minutes later someone posted a reply. “That means Lady Gaga will ride the subway tomorrow, only not as well.”
We’ve all heard the lies:
“The Mercedes is paid for.”
“I’ll call you in the morning.”
“I’m from the IRS and I’m here to help.”
“You may already be a winner.”
But lately, thanks to the brave new world of online marketing, I’ve heard five new ones that are worth considering before we fall for them.
1. The fundamentals don’t matter anymore.
2. The best pricing strategy is free.
3. To be successful, pursue your passion.
4. If you build it, they will come.
5. Content is king.
1. The fundamentals don’t matter anymore.
It seems like each time there’s a new boom, whether it’s real estate, IPOs or online businesses, this old trope gets rolled out. People think the fundamentals don’t matter because they’re looking at something revolutionary and how could something so new be predicted and controlled by something as old (and boring) as fundamentals?
Of course, while technology and opportunities are changing at lighting speed, what doesn’t change is how people react to these new phenomena. And so the same issues and problems resurface time and time again.
Bottom line? The fundamentals DO matter; that’s why they’re called fundamentals.
2. The best pricing strategy is free.
This lie is so counterintuitive that books have been written about it. And the strategy is so seductively simple: give things away to attract attention, build relationships and sell products. Unfortunately, what the authors of the “Free” books forget is that the people who take their advice actually need to earn revenue to survive. Like the World War I flying aces whose planes were shot at and spiraled gracefully down towards the ground where they inevitably crashed, the race to win the low price war finally ends with prices being so low that the sellers go out of business.
The ironic proof that this concept is hogwash? One of the first evangelists for this axiom, Chris Anderson, wrote the book Free: The Future of a Radical Price. It lists for $26.99.
3. To be successful, pursue your passion.
This lie is not only untrue; it’s also cruel. But thanks to its siren call, lots of college students study subjects they have no chance of turning into careers and lots of professionals abandon their careers in order to pursue activities from which they have no chance of earning a living.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a design degree and I think it’s great to study the history of comparative religion or the modal chants of the Renaissance. I just don’t think it’s a particularly profitable endeavor. The ugly truth of many “passion” industries – music, art, filmmaking, etc. – is that you may make a fortune but you can’t make a living. Mike Rowe, the host of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs presented a wonderful speech at TED on this very subject. You can watch it HERE.
The simple truth? If you want to be successful, don’t pursue your passion; pursue your customers’ passion.
4 . If you build it, they will come.
Way back when, in the nascent years of the Internet, posting a site was about all you needed to do to generate viewership. Every site was new and every concept was exciting. And the developers who incorporated viral recruiting, like the guys who built the site HOTorNOT.com, were able to attract millions of users and enormous valuations.
But today the web is crawling with websites. According to the Netcraft Web Server Survey, there were 266,848,493 sites as of December 2010. Over the last few months there has been an increase of 47 million host names and 7 million active websites, and we’re quickly closing in on over 300 million sites.
It’s not much better in the publishing world. Amazon alone offers almost 810,000 ebook titles to browse through. And as you know if you read my blog post last week, I added my own ebook to the list (as of Monday, March 28th, Mouth of the South has sold a whopping 21 copies, by the way), which will really put the count over the top.
Woody Allen might have said that “70% of success in life is showing up” but it’ll take a whole lot more effort than that to be successful these days.
5. Content is king.
Nicholas Negroponte, the founding director of the MIT Media Lab, wrote a wonderfully prescient book titled Being Digital. Although it was published almost 20 years ago, it’s still a go-to guide for people who want to understand the online world.
One of Negroponte’s key points is that content is worth considerably more than distribution. As Negroponte points out, “the valuation of a bit is determined in large part by its ability to be used over and over again.” So Mickey Mouse is valuable because it can be produced in movies, printed on comic books, screened onto tee shirts, stamped onto lunch boxes and even formed into lollipops. Accordingly, way back in 1994 when Being Digital was written, “the market value of Disney was $2 billion greater than that of Bell Atlantic, in spite of Bell Atlantic’s sales being 50 percent greater and (its) profits being double.”
What Negroponte may not have thought about —back then in the dark ages of the Internet — is the incredible volume of content that’s been created, posted and repurposed across the ‘Net. And so his apocryphal line “Content is king,” is only true if it’s qualified that that content better be good, unique or compelling.
These lies are popular because they are grammatically symmetrical, comfortably instructive and because they appeal to our personal self interests. And thanks to today’s 24/7 news cycle hungry for endless bits information to report on, the lies are continuously repeated until they enter our collective consciousness.
Oh, and by the way, you know that money I owe you? Don’t worry, the check’s in the mail.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet lots of you at the different conferences and presentations I speak at every year. Because I spend so much time travelling to and from the speeches, I spend an inordinate amount of time on airplanes. Because I don’t like to waste time on planes, and because I have the attention span of a firefly, I started pulling my laptop out of my carry on and using my free time to write.
I write speeches, ads for clients, and these blog posts. I thought about writing another book too, but because I’ve already written three non-fiction business books (Brain Darts, New Design: Miami, and Building Brand Value), I challenged myself to write a novel instead.
Writing the book at 32,000 feet was mostly fun, until I got about three quarters of the way through. By then I had developed my characters, built the story of their lives and inserted the great mystery that the characters were busy unraveling. My fingers were jumping across the keyboard like a speed addict playing whack-a-mole when I simply ran out of story. And — KABOOM — just like that I had nothing left to write about.
In the meantime, I had sent a copy of the unfinished manuscript to my good friend, TV producer Brian Gadinsky, for his opinion. He e-mailed back that he liked the story line, loved the characters and had even picked some of the actors who would play the various roles in the movie version. (Danny DeVito will play the Cajun con man Floyd Barbonell? Be still my beating heart!) Brian just wanted to know when I’d finish the book because he was eager to read the ending. Then he dropped the bomb. “Or don’t you know,” he wrote, “because it’s very common that neophyte authors simply run out of story and give up.”
Very common??!! Neophyte author??!! GIVE UP??!! I resemble that remark… ouch, that hurts.
Brian’s words bothered me so much that I spent the next two days just thinking about where my story would go and how I would tie it all together. Then I spent the next year and a half back in airplane seats finishing the novel.
The result, The Mouth of The South, has been languishing in my laptop for a few years since I completed it. I never really wrote the story to publish it and I didn’t have any plan for distributing the novel anyway so it just sat. But lately I started thinking about what I’ve been writing about right here in these very blog posts — how media has become democratized and big publishing companies no longer control entrée to the market and that over 9,150 of you read this blog every week. And then my friends in the Florida Speakers Association gently suggested that I should practice what I preach and publish my book in the brave new world of digital media or else the cobbler’s kids would be barefoot. (Ouch again. All this honesty and constructive criticism is killing me.)
So I went online, learned how to publish an eBook and a Kindle edition, asked my friend Dr. Rebecca Staton-Reinstein to help me and I’ve made The Mouth of the South available for the world to read. You can download by clicking HERE if you’re interested.
But wait! Before you invest your hard-earned $3.77 for the eBook, here’s an excerpt from chapter four. Try it on and see if it fits:
While most people Floyd Barbonell came into contact with knew he was rich, few of them knew how he came by his money and fewer still knew where he came from. Floyd was the fourth child born to Etta and Cooter Barbonell of Henri Parish in Louisiana.
Floyd’s earliest memories were of his Mama squealing with delight at the ferocious sting of her homemade hot pepper sauce. “Oh chile,” she’d squeak, her hot sauce dripping from her fat greasy pork sausages onto her fat greasy sausage-shaped fingers, “‘dis sowse be jus’ so hot it like to make you slap yo’ mama!”
Floyd had tried slapping his Mama once and found that it was the only thing that could get old Cooter to come boiling out of his La-z-boy recliner, catching his undershirt on an errant spring and sending him tumbling all willy-nilly out the tattered screen door of the doublewide. Floyd was sure that if his Daddy hadn’t been so drunk he would have certainly caught him and beat him to a pulp, but this being 10 o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t much of a chance that old Cooter’d still be sober.
The fact that Cooter could be so snookered by 10 a.m. was really quite an accomplishment considering he’d only been awake a few minutes. But Cooter had always told his kids to be the best at whatever it was they chose to do with their lives, and Cooter had chosen to be a drunk.
There you have it. The other 230 pages are just as wacky, frenetic, and descriptive and if you’re giggling even a little bit already maybe you’ll like it. You can buy it HERE .
You should know that I’m about 60 pages into the sequel, Walkabout, so your opinion on this first novel means a lot to me. If a few of you like The Mouth of The South and spread the word, and I spend some more time on airplanes banging away at my laptop, I could have two novels online before too long. Who knew democratized media could be so silly?
My laptop broke so I’m writing this blog post longhand.
There was an afternoon once when I was at lunch and got inspired and thumb-typed an article on my phone but this the first time I’ve ever written a post with a pen and paper. Even that wasn’t so easy because while I’ve got sketchbooks stacked everywhere, I had to search for ruled stock to write on. Plus, without the convenience of backspacing and spell check I find writing is a much less fluid process. Not to mention how much slower handwriting is when compared to typing.
The other day, Jonathan Robertson, the CEO of TG Capital, told a great story. He said a guest was staying in one of their hotels on the fifth floor in room 555. He woke up in the morning and noticed the alarm clock on the bed said “5:55.” When the newspaper was delivered he saw that the date was May Fifth. Opening the paper to the sports section, he found a horse in that day’s fifth race named Take Five. So he dressed, had breakfast, went to the track, and bet five thousand, five hundred and fifty five dollars on Take Five in the fifth.
“How’d he do?” we asked.
“The horse came in fifth” he answered.
Exactly as we should have guessed.
But just like I assumed the horse would win the race, I assumed that writing this story by hand would have inspired some different thinking then when I bang it out on my laptop. Other than a lot of cross outs and a sore left hand, however, it was pretty much the same.
My discovery was not in the words I wrote but in the result of the writing. I found that the whole process of creating these blog posts is technostic, or, technology agnostic. My brain doesn’t care how I record the information as long as I get it out of my head and onto paper. I can type, scribble, record or even capture my thoughts with whatever technology comes along next. As long as you read, enjoy, and ultimately find my words worth your time, I’m happy.
Come to think of it, the distribution of my messages is technostic as well. It doesn’t matter if I send you my blog post via e-mail, if you point your browser to http://www.turkeltalks.com, if you click on the link in Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn or if someone forwards you the message. And it doesn’t matter if you read the post on your desktop, your laptop, your netbook, your smart phone, your iPad or if you print it out on paper. What matters is that you read it.
Perhaps we should obsess less over our tech and more over our text. After all, as Nicholas Negroponte wrote more than 15 years ago in his book Being Digital, “content is king.” He was right back then and he’s right today.
Everyone I know has been asking my take on Apple’s name for their new device – the iPad. Frankly I think the naming choice is typical Apple M.O. — they pick the name they want and damn the torpedoes. It’s a take on the old riddle:
Q: Where does a 900 lb. Gorilla sleep?
A: Anywhere it wants.
What surprises me is that Apple didn’t lock up trademarks for lots of potential iP names when they realized the iPod would be such a success. But, as Brad Stone writes in the New York Times, Cisco already owned the name iPhone and Apple used it anyway.
As far as the name iPod sounding like iPad to folks in Ireland or Boston with a brouge, who cares? Apple products are sexy enough that people know what you’re talking about and you can’t think of every single possible eventuality when you’re naming a product anyway.
As for iPad sounding like MaxiPad — I don’t think that Kotex (or whomever) has any exclusive on the word pad. If the word had such a bad connotation to women, you boomers would have never scored when you asked a girl up to “your pad.” How’d that work out for you?
What I don’t like about the name is that it seems rather insignificant and lacks gravitas — iSlate, iCom, iBook, etc. — all seem more important to me. I know that Apple likes to have somewhat of a casual, friendly image (Mac, for example. Apple, too) but the whole thing seems rather trivial to me — a game playing device that I can watch movies and read newspapers on. Big deal. I know that it’s much more than that and will be a harbinger of tech things to come but I’m underwhelmed. And the name doesn’t help.
Bottom line, it’s the first new Apple announcement in a long time that I’m not lusting after. For me, that’s because it’s not really a device to create content — it’s a device to consume content. A VCR vs. a video camera, for example. That being said, I’m sure I’ll be jonesing for one just as soon as I see it in the flesh, regardless of what it’s called.