Book Summary: Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

In any industry, the most trusted brand is always the most profitable one

The situation

There are too many companies spending increasing amount of dollars vying for limited attention and money of consumers

The mistake

Companies try to minimize their marketing spend by broadcasting the same marketing materials to as wide an audience as possible.

The right approach

Forget about the majority. Be laser focused on the audience you are targeting to build trust by starting and maintaining a dialogue with your intended audience.

Jay Levinson: An Ad needs to be ran 27 times on the same individual to get the desired impact.

  • An Ad is seen 1 out of 9 times
  • An Ad needs to be seen 3 times to have the desired effect

How to gain trust

  • Be personal
  • Be relevant
  • Be Specific
  • Be anticipated (don’t surprise them by building a regular cadence to your continued dialogue)

Stages of trust

  • Frequency
  • Awareness
  • Familiarity
  • Trust
  • Profitability

Related readings

  • The One to One Future, Peppers and Rogers

Book summary: The essential Drucker

Management: make people capable of working together to respond to change in the environment through:

  • common goals
  • common values
  • the right structure
  • proper training and development

Reasons for failure

  • Not innovating
  • inability to manage innovation

The goal of any business is to create a customer. A business does so by producing generate products and services the community wants in exchange for profits to sustain continued operation.

The goal of marketing is to know understand and know the customer so well the product sells itself

The Purpose of a business is the change it wants to effect in the community

The Mission is what it wants to do to effect the change

The Objectives are key tasks it will execute upon to achieve the mission.

Types of innovation

  • Product innovation
  • Social innovation
  • Management innovation

Waste as little effort as possible on areas of low competence.

First figure out how you learn to figure out how you perform.

Number two person often fails in number one position because top spot requires a decision maker.

Effective people are perpetually working on time management.

The first rule of decision is one does not make a decision unless there is a disagreement.

Determine the right organization size to fit the requirements of the mission.

Insights from Klaren’s birthday

Conversations with Yi (EverString)

The forthcoming trend for engineering

Machine learning is increasingly becoming commoditized. DevOps becomes more important. Demand for specialized service where DevOps is encapsulated will further increase as demand for engineering tasks further outstrips engineering supplies.

On lead generation market

Companies in the lead generation space have need for scalable web crawlers. This helps offset the cost of retaining three in-house engineers.

Lead generation space has consolidated. There were priorly 120k such companies. There is 7k companies in operation. Majority of players are generating leads by scraping LinkedIn.

Consumer space require constant development of new features. Enterprise space requires service heavy. Enterprise space requires not just lead generation but entire channel marketing service suit (physical mail, online advertising, email marketing)

Lead gen hard to retain. The list becomes less valuable once it’s been used. 80% yearly churn is normal. One company reduces yearly churn to just 10% this by reducing second year subscription from USD800/yr to USD200/yr. further discount to USD100/yr if they don’t like. Recurring service is for grabbing fresh leads from same data source.

On Tele conference

Zoom’s product team compared with UberConference has developed a better understanding of the true conference needs of their users in various context. They have worked harder to ensure their product work seamlessly in identified scenarios. A typical example is the ability to join s conference bybthe press of a button on their mobile phone while driving instead of having to type the typical 4 pin digits.

Insights from the week

From Connie (Edmodo)

  • the key to consulting is to organize data into high level mutually exclusive buckets to allow easy defeating by decision makers

From Tim (Edmodo)

  • Kano model

From Val (Totango)

  • Company is concerned with increasing revenue and profitability. This will drive higher valuation during further exit

From Yip (ATT)

  • Analytics from Facebook page comments and twitter hashtag
  • need to balance customer support demand and cost of running department:
    • customer support hotline
    • Direct comments from influencers  which trigger negative sentiment to support staff
  • Business analyst reads comments manually to get qualitative needs and understands business needs
  • Data scientist explores data might not know the business needs
  • business analyst have problems working with data scientist
  • tools to help business analyst get directly at the insight instead of via data scientist
  • build model to predict call support volume by category
  • build model to quantify feature demand level needs
  • correlation of weather and commodity prices

Book summary: Your First 100

Your first 100

New Customer versus existing ones

  • New customer is 6 – 7 times harder to acquire than to keep one
  • probability of selling to new prospect 5-20% versus 60-70% existing customer
  • loyal customer worth 10X their first purchase

Customer and feelings

  • Loyal customer are buying into an experience they know they will get from your brand.
  • Profiles
    • readers
    • subscribers
    • buyers

Brand

  • What people say when you are not in the room, Jeff Bezos
  • It is tied to their sensory cues
  • Brand strategy is where you tell people how you want your brand to be perceived by your presentation of the different components
  • Your brand should be very targeted and not sell to everybody, only to those who will benefit the most from your offering. That is the basis of differentiation

Experience – components in a brand

  • product
  • website
  • delivery
  • customer service
  • payment

Touch points

  • Pre-touch point: someone mentioned you to them
  • premier first touch point: landing page
  • pivotal touch point: reading up more about your product on your website
    • category 1: no idea about the problem you are solving
    • category 2: aware of the problem
    • category 3: aware of problem, trust and love your content
    • category 4: ready to buy but have questions
    • category 5: made a purchase
  • prime touch point: onboarding & magic moment
  • post touch point: getting referrals

Content tilt

  • To focus on going deep and narrow in the content you create

Prospect behavior

  • 95% not ready but
  • 70% will eventually buy from you or your competitor
  • Only 3% are actively buying at anytime.

Related readings

  • What customers crave, Nicholas J Webb
  • Top of mind, John Hall
  • Lead generation for complex sale, Brain Carroll
  • Content Inc, Joe Pulizzi
  • Sticky Branding, Jeremy Miller

Book Summary: Lost and Founder

Radical Candor/Transparency

It is hard but it works – needs to be tampered with empathy

On being product focused

  • Consulting is limited by time and people – not scalable
  • Effective Product-focused business
    • reach
    • scalability
  • Start with a product informed by your consulting – real life problems others face

Impediment to shifting focus

  • Too comfortable
  • not enough time
  • difficulty finding the right customers for the product

On being a founder

  • Great founders enable a vision
  • forget about being hands on most of the time
  • job scope changes every six months – for any road block encountered focus on sufficing the requirements instead of perfecting it
  • you rarely get to do what you love to do
  • be cognizant on when to lead and when not to – have the specialist do the job
  • Cultivate self awareness in strength and weakness – structure company to work around them
  • Attribute of founder is instilled with near-permanence in the organization while those of supporting team fluctuates
  • the hardest parts of the business is less a reflection about the business than about the person experiencing them
  • Build expertise before building network, build network before building company
  • Focus on and reward the behavior, let the outcome take care of itself

On Values

  • Authentic values force hard decisions – held to be more important than money
  • have real costs: Impede certain behavior and strategy
  • Values are discovered instead of set
  • Used as a yard stick for recruiting new members to the cause. Helps get pass the competence versus cultural fit dilemma

On recruiting

  • CTO should be those that should be oriented towards education instead of shielding you from the nitty gritty details (black box)
  • Use your value system as a yard stick
  • Hiring for diversity will make the mental model of the organization more holistic
  • Great managers / coaches might not be great individual contributors

On markets and pivots

  • Pivots Are expensive don’t make it a habit – only resort to this tactic when the original hypothesis is not longer valid
  • focus on the market and then find a field ignored by others because it appears unsexy. From there craft a solution
  • Err on the side of execution

On investors

  • Need to take money for the right reason
  • Investors interest will tend to get out of alignment overtime (return multiples and investment horizons)
  • 80 percent of returns are by 20 percent of investments
  • They need at least a 10X to break even in a position for all the other losing positions they took
  • They don’t bring much value to the table
  • follow up with CEOs they invested in to understand how they react in a shit storm
  • Can help provide information on salary ranges

Choosing a market

  • If you can keep your ego in check you can chase after smaller markets and don’t need VC money
  • Great ideas are born of mediocre ideas that become better by
    • time spent iterating
    • humility learning
    • surviving
  • look for searches that indicate problems
    • Google Adwords
    • Moz’s keyword Explorer

Knowing your customers

Defining your user base

  • Call 3 different types of users
  • Find out why they subscribed and stayed
  • Craft messaging toward this group of people

Discounts are a doubled edged sword – while they might attract signups, these folks tend to have a higher churn rate

Schedule regular interactions with your user so that you can understand their habits. It helps you get to an empathetic position with them.

On Products

  • Feature set needs to be coherent enough to be able to deliver value
  • Early adopters
    • have very different expectation as compared to early majority –
    • hence more forgiving
    • ok accepting MVP
  • Retention triumphs acquisition any day

Marketing

  • Optimize for acquisition loops that reinforces the UVP instead of linear acquisition channels

Focused Execution

  • Practice the discipline of focus.
  • Important to Focus and not waver around unnecessarily. Its a waste of resources
  • A very focused and simplified product offering will help users to more easily understand and adopt it
  • Helps keep teams lean as a by-product
    • ROA improves dramatically
    • helps avoid future layoffs
  • Focus on what will not change in the next 10 years

Related references

  • Lean Startup, Eric Ries
  • Sprint, Jake Knapp
  • Venture Deals, Brad Feld

Reflections on communicating with your users via email

While sending a personal email to each individual user who directly uses our API just now, it occurred to me the main difference between talking with someone you have relationship with (like your mum/girlfriend/wife…?) versus simply doing a mass email blast to a group of “strangers”, is the potential lack of warmth and empathy in the latter on the sender’s side.
 
No one really likes being treated like a number on a Excel sheet. It sucks.
The key challenge becomes how do you scale your communication as the amount of people you need to communicate with increases without alienating them. Or does it even matter?

Related Reference

  • Permission Marketing, Seth Godin

Book Summary: Contagious

Contagious

On Word of mouth

  • versus advertising
    • it is more persuasive since the messenger has no monetary incentive and is a trusted person.
    • It is directed at the immediate context of the recipient
  • Only 7% of word of mouth happens online. Most still happens offline
  • Types of word of mouth
    • immediate word of mouth
    • ongoing word of mouth
  • Big forest fires aren’t caused by big sparks. Lots of individual trees have to catch fire and carry the flame

Word of mouth principles

  • Social currency
    • people want to feel special about themselves. When they get to share something extraordinary, they get the chance to Wow others.
    • Categories of currency
      • scarcity
      • exclusivity
  • Triggers
    • Ideas strongly associated with items frequently found the environment gets triggered more often. Pick common objects in a user’s environment that is not already laced with other meanings.
    • The more specific a trigger the higher the likelihood of triggered action.
    • Choose trigger right close to the proximity of the intended action
  • Emotions
    • Emotions that excites will be more likely to drive the recipient towards an action than those that.
      • Useful emotions: Awe, excitement, anger, fear
      • Not useful emotions: sadness, hopelessness
    • Associate the idea with emotions
  • Public
    • Monkey see, monkey do. Figure out how to make users activities more visible to those around them so that they could copy his action. A private action is unlikely to get copied
    • Choose stimulus that others can’t help but notice.
  • Practical Value
    • Useful things tends to get shared more frequently. While there might be less initial word of mouth, there will always be on going word of mouth.
  • Stories
    • help transfer huge amounts of contextual information to recipient
    • helps suspending judgement – using proof by analogy
    • story must be designed such that storyline falls apart when intended idea is removed from it
    • For dramatic purposes, interesting and novel points often get exaggerated as story pasts from one person. As such the story gets more and more remarkable as it is past along.

Related theories

  • Prospect theory: the WoW factor of an idea is often taken in association with the denominator its associated with
  • Rule of 100
    • for items below $100 present discount in percentage
    • for items above $100 present discount in absolute dollar figures

Key take aways from Trust me I am lying

Trust me I am lying

The publication eco-system

  • Every content creator within the publication ecosystem is under immense pressure to produce content under the tightest deadline.
    • renumeration is based on number of articles per period time
    • eye balls are converted to advertising revenue
    • lots of copying happens
  • Media was once about protecting a new, on the web it is about building one
    • well defined scope matters
    • content that dives deep into its vertical matters
  • Headlines are the most important
  • Tools of the trade
    • lavish pictures
    • impostors, frauds and fake interviews
    • support for the underdog causes
    • anonymous sources
    • prominent coverage of high society and events
    • different age but same old tricks
  • On monetization
    • Advertising is the main driver of revenue
    • Subscription model focus on trusted source as opposed to advertising source
    • RSS got killed because it went against the interest of Advertisers
  • On the online medium
    • The demands of the medium forces the bloggers to act they way they are
    • Tim Berners Lee stacked new content on the top and the rest of the internet thus follows
    • Thus the need to constantly create new content

On Virality

  • The most powerful predictor of virality is how much anger an article evokes.
  • The most powerful predictor of what spreads online is anger
    • sensationalism
    • extremism
    • sex
    • scandal
    • hatred
  • Things must be negative but not too negative so as to incite action
  • Media needs to get you feeling negative so that you are more likely to share
  • Empty vessels are incline to snark so as to feel unjustifiably good about themselves

On reality

  • Chris Hedges
    • is complicated and boring
    • the masses are incapable and unwilling to handle its confusion
    • In an age of images, entertainment and instant emotional gratification, no one seeks honesty and gratification
  • Cognitive biases
    • we are bad at being sketical
      • availability biases
      • narrative fallacy
    • we are worst at correcting our wrong beliefs
      • social proofing
      • consistency biases
  • First decide what you are intending to do with the information you collected

Related readings

Understanding cognitive biases is important for startups

Overview

All decisions are inherently emotional. Our lymphatic system is a more ancient and robust system than our logical faculties. Its been shown in studies, conducted by Antonio Damasio in 2000, that patients with damage to the part of the brain that processes emotions have trouble making even the smallest decisions.

Humans are by nature social creatures. Studies show that our brains contain mirror neurons which endows us the ability to empathize with another fellow human being. This also implies our emotions are easily subjected to the influence of others. This is why it is important to get familiar with the various cognitive biases in the human brain and what triggers them (see lecture by Charlie Munger).

On the flip side, it is possible to exploit cognitive biases to boost sales conversions. This is an art that touts in the streets of Cairo have mastered through years of practice. The effectiveness of any street tout is dependent on the number of cognitive biases he can exploit during the short period of encounter with his subject.

A case study on how cognitive biases are combined and used

A tout might start the conversation with a small ask, e.g. as simple as “what is your name?”. This seemingly innocent question when responded will trigger off the consistency bias. The subject will inevitably feel a sense of cognitive dissonance if he were to stop further conversation after having started the conversation by telling the tout his name.

The tout next proceeds to offer a seemingly harmless “gift” which might be small and of little value. This gift, when accepted, will exploit the reciprocity bias. The subject having received something of value will inevitably feel uneasy if he does not reciprocate in kind.

Since the subject at this point, without any prior data points, is yet sure on the “value” to place on the “gift”, a skillful tout might take the opportunity to exploit the anchoring bias by providing an high arbitrarily number about something seemingly unrelated such as one of the following:

  • the age of his 90 year old mum
  • the age of the pyramids
  • the inhumanly high temperature

This arbitrarily high number will help facilitate a higher perceived valuation of the “gift”.

And while he is telling about his mum or kids, he might exploit the authority bias by saying his mum is sick and needs money to see the doctor. One might say there is no person of authority in the immediate proximity. However in this scenario, the person is actually some authority figure the subject had in his life, while he was growing up, who preached to him the importance of being a good human being and helping others in need. Having delivered his story till this point, the tout should have successfully wiggled himself to a moral high ground in relationship to the subject.

It can be assumed that sometime has already past since the subject was given physical possession of the gift. The endowment effect should have kicked in by then. The subject if he was even mildly inclined towards the gift at the onset, he will feel a potentially higher level of psychological discomfort at returning the “gift” to the tout.

At this point from a psychological perspective, for the subject to be able to refuse the request of the tout for a donation, he would necessarily need to have priorly developed much mastery over his own emotions. It can be safely assumed the percentage of subjects parting with a “token” amount of donation to the tout will be significantly higher than an alternative scenario where a beggar simply approached begged for money.

How it is relevant to your funnel

Now one would ask how does this relate to driving up conversion rates in my startup application? The point of the story is not to teach you how to be “evil“, by getting your user to doing something against his will, but to illustrate the importance of catering to his psychological needs within your onboarding experience. The reason why your user landed at the top of your funnel was because he has a genuine need that he hopes your application could get done for him.

A smooth flowing onboarding experience coupled with a compelling story will help keep your user motivated as you drive him down the funnel towards the magic moment within your application. There is a reason why folks call the magic moment an Aha! moment. From a biological perspective, your user’s brain releases a small dose of dopamine (a feel good reward) during that very instance.

The key to user retention is to figure how to encourage repeated actions by your user so that he could experience the Aha! moment again and again until the action becomes a habit and your user does it reflexively without needing to think about it. Of course, to ensure your service can continue to benefit the world,  it is important to remember asking for contribution to pay for server cost at some point…

At GetData.IO, our mission is to turn the Web into the fully functional Giant Graph Database of Human Knowledge. We aim to do so by nurturing a community of like-minded contributors, hence the importance of successfully on-boarding our users. This is because every successfully created data source will not only benefit its creator but also other community members that might have need of it in the future.

Related References

  • Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal
  • Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body, Daniel Goldman
  • AARRR framework, Dave McClure
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition, Robert B Cialdini
  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg
  • The psychology of human misjudgment, Charlie Mung
  • Jobs to Be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation, Stephen Wunker