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August 2014
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13 posts from September 2014

Searching for offline places online

If we're building up a physical place, we have to remember that people often come to an offline place from an online place. Does our web site completely and correctly convery the physical experience? How can we generate a desire among our viewers to meet each other at our place?


Hub Magazine: Bricks & Cliques, 2014-Aug-15 by Christine Hall of Landor Associates

People go online to find new things to do locally and to be a part of what’s going on in their community. They can watch videos and read reviews to determine if they’ve found a brand and brand experience with which they might want to connect. Brands that use technology to drive foot traffic to an in-person experience are more successful in building community and loyalty around their brand.

Julep Beauty is a great example of this. Founded by Jane Park, a former Starbucks executive, Julep Beauty was launched as a small chain of beauty salons intended to double as a laboratory for testing new products. The larger play was to use the stores to build a community and capitalize on the conversations that naturally happen at salons. Park has now extended that conversation into the online sphere, with thousands of women actively playing a role in designing new products.

Why analyzing customer data takes a janitor

When it comes to analyzing customer data, we are often surprised to find it difficult and time consuming. Unless we've been doing it for awhile, we'll be bummed to discover inaccurate data, gaps and conflicts. No matter how small our business, it's never to late to start creating a customer database that speaks to us. Cleaning the data is not that much different from housekeeping services. We can put it off, but the problems will just pile up.

NY Times: For Big-Data Scientists, 'Janitor Work' Is Key Hurdle to Insights", 2014-Aug-17 by Steve Lohr

Data scientists, according to interviews and expert estimates, spend from 50 percent to 80 percent of their time mired in this more mundane labor of collecting and preparing unruly digital data, before it can be explored for useful nuggets.

“Data wrangling is a huge — and surprisingly so — part of the job,” said Monica Rogati, vice president for data science at Jawbone, whose sensor-filled wristband and software track activity, sleep and food consumption, and suggest dietary and health tips based on the numbers. “It’s something that is not appreciated by data civilians. At times, it feels like everything we do.”

How to build sustainable loyalty

I was talking to someone about launching a new retail business and asked him about having a loyalty program. He said, "oh, yes, it's part of the point-of-sale system we'll be using."

Unfortunately, the built-in discount for frequent purchase represents a PRICING strategy, not a loyalty system. It may well be a sound way to operate, to show that we appreciate return business, but it doesn't help us learn about our customers.


Sustainability is built of a learning cycle where we're always gathering information about our customers and they're learning about us, and we're adapting our business based on what we learned. A well-conceived loyalty program increases frequency AND deepens understanding.

Fast Company: Why building your brand is all out sharing your values, 2014-Aug-8 by Dave Hawley

As a brand manager, it is your responsibility to make people of different demographics, geographical locations, and socioeconomic statuses feel like members of one collective whole--your brand tribe.

Brands need values that hold their community together, and as a smart tribe builder, you must show these values through both words and actions.

By identifying the interests and values that your ideal customers share and demonstrating that your brand shares those values through the conversations you start, join, and share, you bring about stability and growth for your brand....

It’s up to marketers to align themselves with consumers, not the other way around. When we identify and claim values to help people distinguish themselves as a community distinct from others--when we listen and help that community strengthen its bonds--members talk to each other.

Understanding email resistance

My millenial-age daughter can really let the email pile up. But she's not substantially different than the rest of us who fall behind from time to time. Corporations who 'ban email' are actually attacking a lazy employee habit of using email to avoid teamwork. We've all done it. "I'll just send out an email and then I can say I tried."

Email is NOT a single thing, it's a much-abused platform. Alexis Madrigal makes an important point that it's very much the successor to the letter (or within a corporation, the memo). He also makes the point that email clients (Outlook, GMail, Boxer, Apple Mail, etc.) have been able to improve our ease-of-use because email is an open platform. And the searchable email is dramatically better at perserving information in a useable form.

Of course, email isn't the right medium for every message. When writing an email, you have to think about the end-user and how they would like to receive the message. In its persistence, flexibility, searchability, and shareability, you have to honor the email format. Use it to serve the reader.

The Atlantic: Email is Still the Best Thing on the Internet, 2014-Aug-14 by Alexis C. Madrigal

And what's changing isn't a product that must be rolled out to all users, but an ecosystem that provides niches for all kinds of different emailers. 

Perhaps the way, then, to recover some of the old web, before the dominance of Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook, isn't to build new competitors to those companies, but to redouble our use and support of good old email.

Email—yes, email—is one way forward for a less commercial, less centralized web, and the best thing is, this beautiful cockroach of a social network is already living in all of our homes. 

Now, all we have to do is convince the kids that the real rebellion against the pressures of social media isn't to escape to the ephemerality of Snapchat, but to retreat to the private, relaxed confines of their email inboxes.

How to build a personal habit of de-stressing

Travis Bradberry has a very good article on LinkedIn about handling stress. He gives 10 tips, which I'm going to re-order and rephrase for my benefit. If you think this looks promising, go to his article and use his information to design your own list. Then place reminders around your environment and practice, practice, practice. 

My personal reminder list to de-stress... (using 'we' helps me feel in my community). 

  1. We focus on deep breathing whenever anxiety crops up.
  2. We reframe the situation, keeping it mind "it's not about me."
  3. We stop negative self-talk.
  4. We count our blessings.
  5. We anticipate upcoming good experiences and schedule them if necessary.
  6. We avoid anticipating bad outcomes, except as needed to plan safeguards, and we don't live in the future, especially a bad one.
  7. We limit caffeine and alcohol, especially for de-stressing.
  8. We sleep well.
  9. We plan and use time to disconnect, not making ourselves available 24/7.
  10. We use our support system and own up to our vulnerabilities with family and friends. 

LinkedIn: How Successful People Stay Calm, 2014-Aug-5 by Travis Bradberry

Besides increasing your risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity, stress decreases your cognitive performance. Fortunately, though, unless a lion is chasing you, the bulk of your stress is subjective and under your control. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ under stressful circumstances. This lowers their stress levels regardless of what’s happening in their environment, ensuring that the stress they experience is intermittent and not prolonged.

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when faced with stress, what follows are ten of the best. Some of these strategies may seem obvious, but the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.

Why we are all psychologists now

As we all become better educated, including our customers, practical knowledge of psychology is required. Being truthful and reliable is insufficient for success. If we don't anticipate our customers' reactions, our competition will.

The Discipline of Innovation: If the Internet is a Psychology Experiment, Are You a Psychologist?, 2014-Jul-1 by Tim Kastelle

I’ve argued for a more Bayesian approach to strategy in which we’re not trying to “get it right” as much as we are trying to become less wrong over time.  That requires a more adaptive approach, but also substantive differences in how we operate—less hierarchical, more agile, and more sensitive to changes in the marketplace.

When we listen to our customers, we have to consider why and how

Listening to one's customers is not a simple thing. The questions, the context, the objectives we have color the entire process. The article below by Steve Blank does a great job differentiating the Lean Startup approach from Design Thinking. Both approaches can lead to strong and productive customer ties, if we are aware of our objectives.

However, every listening initiative has to recognize its own agenda, which could be hidden by corporate double-talk or biases on the part of the people running the show. If we approach our customers with an open heart and view them as collaborators, we have a better chance of overcoming our biases and avoiding miscommunication.

Xconomy: Driving Corporate Innovation: Design Thinking vs. Customer Development, 2014-Jul-30 by Steve Blank

  • Customer Development and Design Thinking are both customer discovery processes
  • Customer Development starts with, “I have a technology/product, now who do I sell it to?”
  • Design Thinking starts with, “I need to understand customer needs and iterate prototypes until I find a technology and product that satisfies this need”
  • Customer Development is optimized for speed and “good enough” decision making with limited time and resources
  • Design Thinking is optimized for getting it right before we make big bets