Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Path of Least Resistance

At any given moment people are fleeing from problems, some of which are simply the equilibrium points of life: hunger, boredom, physical pain, poverty.

Businesses exist solely as paths of least resistance between where customers are and where they want to be.

To the extent a customer understands their problem very well, its much easier to put forward evidence necessary to convince them to buy your product or service.

If you correctly optimize all visible and invisible traits that convey to your customer the ability to be their path of least resistance compared to other alternatives, then you win.

Examples of this:

* Uber exists because cabs are disgusting and expensive.
* McDonalds exists because people don't want to drive far to eat a reliably consistent, cheap meal.
* Walmart exists because people don't want to visit 17 specialty stores.
* Sonic exists because people want to eat in their cars and not be judged by it.
* BMW exists because some people don't want to identify with poor domestic US car brands. 

To be the path of least resistance:

* Optimize your business/product to solve most/all/enough of the pain.
* Advertise and talk to customers in terms of their specific problem (segmentation)
* Answer all their questions, be very easy to talk to, and generally treat them very kindly.
* Give your customers a clear idea of how long something will take (contrast with alternatives)
* Don't be too slow to pass-on savings to your customers.

Things to avoid:

Some companies make themselves the path of least resistance by putting up artificial barriers (pharma, spyware companies, acquisitions of competitors, etc). Yuck.

Be nice.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dream Big, Fight Hard, Expect Resistance


You can accomplish anything 
you set your mind to....


 ...unless someone else sets their 
mind to thwarting you.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ad Copy: The Miracle on 34th Street Putdown

Ad copy can sometimes border on the insensitive, especially when you're in objection-killing mode. To some people the BATNA is way too strong for them to try your product, and our instincts steer us to a last-ditch objection-killing language that attacks what they love.

Ex: "If you want the fastest car, buy an F1 racer, if you want the most luxury, hire the company that builds the custom Rolls Royces for the Saudis. If you want a great car that looks great on you and has some punch, buy a Cadillac CTS."

I call this the "Miracle on 34th Street Putdown" because while it suggests great alternatives (like the Kimbal's Santa in Miracle on 34th Street), it does so by insulting the core objection of the customer. 

However, its a great verbal fencing tool when you're confronted with a jerk.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Announcing BoardingParty.io

A week ago today, I made a commitment to build and launch a simple product in a week's time as part of the 7-Day-Challenge that was spawned after the Amy Hoy and Nathan Barry 24 hour product challenges.

I was part of a group of challengers that included:
Barry Welch (myself)
I'm happy to announce that BoardingParty.io, has survived the challenge and has been built to the following specifications:

* Rails 4.1.0 running on Heroku incl. Devise / Delayed Job / PaperClip / AWS SDK 
* Intercom.io integration (webhooks and pushing messages)
* FullContact API integration (for fleshing out customer data that Intercom is too stingy to send us)
* Stripe integration (for billing)
* Flash-based in-browser audio recording
* Landing pages / dashboard pages... different designs (split asset pipeline, woo!)

Bonus Land:

* AWS elastic transcoder integration (RTG)
* API endpoints for iOS App (incomplete)
* In-progress iOS App (incomplete)
* A RubyGem called Gluestick for integrating without Intercom 
(soon to be a key piece of a Heroku add-on)
* APNS push notifications (deployed and tested)

Whew, what a week, now we're actually ready to onboard our first alpha customers, and I'm extrememly jazzed.

If you're in the market for an improved Intercom.io onboarding experience for your users (yes, it can be better). Signup for the Launch List at www.boardingparty.io.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

SSL for SEO

Google's recent announcement of algorithm changes that involve preferring secure sites over non-secure ones certainly created a collective gasp among SEO experts. Its a sensible move by the search giant, and certainly an SEO buff that will be OVERPOWERED for a while. Thus if you're already pretty decent on your markup and your content, the smartest on-page change you could make right now would be to add an SSL cert to your server.

If you use a hosting provider like Godaddy or Liquid:
Call them and find out what it takes to get a cert installed and spend that mo-nay right now. Its probably worth the ongoing cost.

If you're using S3 for website hosting:
Hang on to your hat, because it will cost you a fortune: http://aws.amazon.com/cloudfront/pricing/

If you're using managed hosting like Azure or Heroku
Use Expedited SSL. It takes like 3 minutes to setup. Easiest Heroku SSL possible. So good.

None of these options is very cheap, but Amazon, wow. Anyway, its probably totally worth the investment, so get on with it and add SSL to your site.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Move Something Forward

All you really need to do today is to move something forward. It doesn't have to be much, in fact, you should avoid trying to take on too much. But, just start out by focusing on moving one meaningful thing forward... and keep pushing until it moves. If it won't move, or if you get far enough to call it good, then find something else and move it forward. Do this, and don't give up until something moves. Do this every day. Soon you'll look around and be impressed by how far you've come.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Life Sprints

It Starts with an Idea, a Dumb Idea

Ever had an idea that seemed kinda dumb and you just left it alone... and then a couple of years later you see someone else had that same dumb idea and now they've got investors and a profitable company? I have. That sucks. {shrug}

Because it is human nature to second-guess even good ideas, and since good ideas often seem like dumb ideas at first, its important to give ideas time to gestate. I believe that ideas should not just be gestated in your mind, but rather it is important to vet the idea and experiment with it in the real world over a fixed period of time. So, these days, I conduct little Life Sprints to give ideas the proper level of time investment before I call them dumb. Yep, every three months I hold up my proverbial finger to the wind and decide on the next course my efforts should take[1], and then I "sprint" to the end, putting in enough effort to be able to say I have it a good try.

The Fallicy of Waiting on a Great Idea

I know people who right this minute have ideas they are sitting on because they don't think the ideas are good enough to give them a shot. They are waiting for perfect, obvious ideas that can guarantee a return on investment. While I can sympathize, I think this approach leaves a lot to be desired. It is often in the execution of bad ideas that good ideas are found.

But, here's the kicker: you have to treat all ideas, good or bad, as if they are worth taking the shot on. Because if you don't treat all ideas the same, you risk missing that great idea that surfaces that at first seemed like a dud. Yep, good idea or not, you will execute until the end without fail and then re-evaluate at the end of the period.

I recommend this for a couple of good reasons:

1) You should avoid getting yourself caught in the cycle of evaluating ideas (analysis paralysis) and simply move forward with a hypothesis which you will prove over the period of your sprint. In this approach, the worst case scenario is that you tied up 3 months with a loser idea.

2) Distractions, which can normally beset the typical wheel-spinning entrepreneur, can be filtered by the criteria set forth at the beginning of the sprint. Your requirements cannot be changed until the next sprint, and only things that meet the criteria of supporting the goals of the sprint are allowed through. This means you can spend less time evaluating things on their merits. Instead, those new ideas are sent to the backlog. This process creates an insanely tight focus on the activities of the sprint.

Formula

Here is my new, very software-development-like version of a Life Sprint:

1) Define specific desired outcomes, not the how (ex: increase freelancing income)
2) Break down the required tasks that are assumed to support this outcome.
3) Commit to the sprint publicly
4) Track where you are.
5) Demo the outcome to your peer group.

Rules:
* No new requirements (new projects, relationships, etc) until the next sprint
* Choose challenging but doable outcomes.


My Current Experiments (as of publish date)

* My young son earning money selling auto-vaccuum services by the highway on weekends (weird right?). Its working for him. He's making some pocket money that he wouldn't have had otherwise.

* I'm setting up a bunch of content pages to try to capture local consulting leads. Early results: looking good.

* I'm setting up a physical product/service business website and seeing if I can get local traffic.


Now go, and try some things!

[1] In the past, I've not been so particular on the outcomes of those three months as long as I dutifully held the course and did my unmetered best to test my hypothesis. Now, I'm starting to think this is suboptimal. I think even brief detours need to have well-defined outcomes.

[2] So-called because 1) I'm an engineer and relatively non-creative when it comes to naming things, and 2) there happens to be a software development process construct call Scrum wherein challenging Sprints are undertaken by a team in order to finish some desired functionality without interference from requirements changes in-sprint.

[2] It doesn't have to be 3-months. In fact, I'm currently sprinting on lifecycle emails for my two most recent business concepts: sermon sharing and online payment processing for churches.