Competing with Amazon... finding a better reason to buy stuff.

Of course. I have big plans to create a business that Amazon can't touch. Yes,... I am a fool. 

Max Niederhofer: The Amazon "kill zone" in DTC, 2018-Oct-4

So what's Amazon not good at? Where do startups have an edge? Because Amazon certainly has structural advantages in scale, capital, data, and probably people.

Right now, it looks like the advantage lies in "the other ways in which people want to shop." Whether it's through their friends, by following an influencer, by falling in love with the narrative of the brand, by joining a community of like-minded, passionate individuals for whom the brand is their joint expression of belonging.

That emotion is not "Amazon" at its core.

Extending this "authentic emotional connection" micro-thesis a bit, it suggests a playbook that looks fairly different from many of the DTC brands that we're seeing in the market. Most important, perhaps, is the experimentation at the early stage that looks at what helps people fall in love with your product. What gets them to not just want to join, but want to build your community? As Rebecca notes, what causes them to set up Facebook groups, ask for swag, refer their friends, come back to buy again and again?


The content of our relationships

Although I enjoyed Scott's LinkedIn post the first time I read it, I keep circling back around to think about what it means to me. Has social media changed the way I form relationships? 

Yes, social media has changed me. For the better, the way it's changed Scott? Hmmm... Unfortunately, I think it's given me an excuse to not maintain some relationships as well as I should. I check the Facebook profile of close friends and skip giving them a call. On the plus side, I think I have more connections who are different than myself and more ability to track them even if we don't have much opportunity to be around each other. In the end, I'm more likely to reconnect with them rather than drift farther and farther apart. 

I titled this blog post "The content of our relationships" before I knew what I was going to say. Social media gives us the opportunity to lurk and sustain very superficial relationships. Scott's article reminds me that we can't just drift about in those. We need to have some strong relationships that require time and work, if not interaction in real time. 

I'm not sure whether to develop these relationships based on the work I want to do, or on the people I want to do it with. 

LinkedIn: How Social Media Has Changed Me (For the Better), 2018-Jun-29 by Scott Allen

When we were researching my book, The Virtual Handshake, a key issue for us was focusing on how to build stronger relationships online. We surveyed all of the available literature on the topic, as well as research about what builds stronger relationships generally. What we found is that much of the reason stronger relationships are built face-to-face is not due to the direct physical interaction, but because the kind of activities and interactions that build stronger relationships occur more frequently in the real world (or at least they did 15 years ago when we were writing it): working together towards a common goal, shared intensely emotional experiences, making and keeping micro-commitments, etc.

Learning these things and practicing them online has helped me build stronger relationships in person, as well. In particular, I now know how to very quickly build trust and rapport, and I’ve found that a very useful skill to have.


Checklist for persuasive communications

Before trying to change someone's mind, run down this checklist:

  • Am I challenging a deeply held prior belief?
  • Is that belief tied to the other person's identity?
  • What are the beliefs I share with this person?
  • What stories and jokes can I share that will get this person smiling? 
  • What are the rewards they could experience if they changed their mind?
  • What are options I could offer this person to experience or learn about the new position? 
  • How do I stimulate their curiosity and get them to fill in the gaps in their knowledge? 
  • What is the other person's mood? How risk averse are they? (Pessimistic people are more risk-averse.)
  • Who are generally respected people that are in favor of my position? 

Time: Why People Can't Agree on Basic Facts, 2017-Sep-19 by Tali Sharot

At a time when information is easily obtained and data is abundant, it is important to be acutely aware that it is people’s feelings, hopes and fears that play a central role in whether a piece of evidence will influence their beliefs. It is those aspects of human nature that our message needs to address to make a change in others — or in ourselves.

Eric Barker: New Neuroscience Reveals 7 Secrets That Will Make You Persuasive, 2018-Oct-8 by Eric Barker

Here's how to use neuroscience to be more persuasive:

  • Prior Beliefs: Don't start with how they're wrong, start with common ground. (You may disagree with me on this but we both want to get better at persuasion, don't we?)
  • Emotion: Make them feel and get your brains in sync. (Look! Smiling puppies!)
  • Incentives: Focus on rewards, not warnings. (Incentives will get you what you want, I promise.)
  • Agency: Give options, not orders. (Would you like to offer them two possibilities or three? Totally up to you.)
  • Curiosity: "Fill the gap" and focus on the positive. (The headline of this blog post was not chosen at random, my friend.)
  • State of Mind: If they're feeling down, present the conservative option. If they're feeling good, focus on the riskier upside. (Before I explain this further, how are you feeling today?)
  • Other People: Showing the popularity of your position helps. (Every smart person I know follows this rule.)

That's all the data you need to stop being reliant on data. We didn't have statistics and research thousands of years ago but people still convinced one another. 


Publishing content to customer needs, not a calendar

At PatSnap, the Head of Content is Timi Olotu, and he has established an incredibly effective practice. He and his staff develop blog posts, research, and interviews which are prized by PatSnap customers. The process of interacting with customers, performing research, then tracking statistics is so well ingrained, that having a "content calendar" is irrelevant. 

Managing Editor: A Different Kettle of Fish: How Timi Olotu Has Built a Successful B2B Content Marketing Program, 2018-Oct-16 by Lee Price

For one, research is key. I try to instill a research sensibility with my team. One of the first things I invested in at PatSnap was a Blue Yeti microphone. We regularly interview people and we need the audio quality to be good. Then we have a framework to document all the key insights, and behavioral and attitudinal trends that we learn from those calls and from talking to salespeople.

But I would say the thing that really gives us an edge is that we spend a lot of time really trying to figure out what we should be talking about. When I joined I tried to stamp out the mentality of having any kind of weekly or monthly publishing quota. We try to stay responsible and do end up publishing pretty much weekly. However, what was important was to shift the mentality away from "we need to be talking" to "we need to be saying something compelling."