Forget the A-List After All

You’ve got to read “Is the Tipping Point Toast?” by Clive Thompson in FastCompany. The gist of Thompson’s piece, based on the work of Duncan Watts of Yahoo Research, is that the theory that a select few “key influencers” matter more than “the rest of us” when it comes to viral and word-of-mouth marketing campaigns is flawed. Said Watts:

“It [achieving marketing success through influentials] just doesn’t work. A rare bunch of cool people just don’t have that power. And when you test the way marketers say the world works, it falls apart. There’s no there there.”

In contrast to influential marketing, Watt’s believes the key factor is the readiness of the market: “If society is ready to embrace a trend, almost anyone can start one—and if it isn’t, then almost no one can.” There will be first movers, but almost anyone can be this first mover—and therefore what Watts calls an “accidental Influential.”

My money is on Watts. If you agree, it should change your perspective on marketing:

  • Spend less time and effort on industry events and other focused PR and marketing that involves sucking up to journalists, analysts, and experts. Spend more time and effort pressing the flesh of real customers. Typically, you won’t meet too many customers at a Ritz Carlton.
  • Try mass marketing because you never know who will be your “accidental Influential.” Or, as the saying goes, “Let a hundred flowers blossom” to determine who “gets” your product. Admittedly, the challenge is to find a cost-effective way to do mass marketing.
  • Forget A-list bloggers. Lousy reviews by them cannot tank your product. Great reviews cannot make it successful. Focus on big numbers—any Technorati 1,000,000 blogger can be a channel to reach people. If enough people like your product, the A-list bloggers will have to write about you.

How does Watts’ thinking square with evangelism? I don’t see a conflict because evangelism is about “bringing the good news” to everyone and then supporting the people who “get it.” Evangelism is not about sucking up to only people who are famous and self-important. To wit, few Fortune 500 CIOs helped make Macintosh successful. It was unknown artists, designers, hobbyists, and user-group members who made the Macintosh successful, and we could not have identified them in advance.

Seattle Taps Its Inner Silicon Valley

Many communities dream of becoming the next Silicon Valley. But Seattle is actually doing it. The influx of entrepreneurs and of venture capitalists to bankroll them is slowly reshaping this city and a regional economy long buffeted by the booms and busts of the aerospace and timber industries. A start-up ecosystem needs social networks, support businesses and a business culture that views failure as a badge of honor, not shame. All of that is in place in Seattle.

Money is pouring in. During the last 12 years, venture capital investment here has more than tripled, to about $1 billion annually. Last year Washington tied with Texas as the third-largest destination for venture capital money nationwide, behind California and Massachusetts.

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Why You Need to be Organised to be Creative

Mark McGuinness over at the Business of Design Online blog has written a series of articles (see links bel0w), on getting organized and improving creativity.  Often many of us pitch creativity versus organization and structure erroneously.  I believe organization and structure create (pun intended) an environment where creativity can flourish.  Here is was Mark thinks:

There, I’ve said it. Organisation, structure, discipline and habit – these often seen as threats to creativity. Not to mention corporate-sounding phrases such as ‘time management’ or ‘workflow’. We like to think of creativity as a space for untrammelled imagination, free from all constraints. Yet while freedom, rule-breaking and inspiration are undoubtedly essential to the creative process, the popular image of creativity overlooks another aspect: examine the life of any great artist and you will find evidence of hard work, discipline and a hard-won knowledge of the rules and conventions of their medium.

Here are links for articles 2 through 5.  This is a seven part series so be sure to catch the conclusion.

over 1k rebates for Fry’s found in dumpster

Photo (cc) by Kamal H.

1,300 unopened rebate forms a Mercury News reporter found in a dumpster near Vastech, a rebate processor for Fry’s Electronics.

When confronted, the company’s owner blamed it on a lazy employee who no longer works for Vastech and offered to process and sign checks for all of the envelopes in front of the reporter.

Stories like this make Matt’s “as organized as a Swiss train system” rebate tracking methodology seem less and less insane.

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How to Write a Business Plan: Ten Questions with Tim Berry

Guy Kawasaki has posted a Q&A on his blog with Tim Berry the President of Palo Alto Software, the makers of Business Plan Pro.  10 Questions about business planning.  My favorite response to the question of common mistakes was:

Answer: The worst by far is focusing on the plan instead of planning. This generates the idea that you create a plan as a document, and the related misunderstanding that the plan is for somebody else. You don’t postpone life while you’re developing a plan; you’re always developing the plan. In the meantime, “Get going.”

So many times I have seen managers and teams get lost and focus on the planning  process, the creation of the document(s) and not on the content and execution of the plan.   What about you?  What are your experiences in the business planning process?

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Worldwide Anti-US Feelings Suggest Troubling Trend

Leadership: Worldwide Anti-US Feelings Suggest Troubling Trend:

Anyone that travels the global marketplace knows that negative views of the US are widely held. What often surprises people is the nations in which the population tends to view the US unfavorably. A massive global poll of 45,000 released by the Pew Research Center illustrates that the US is viewed negatively by significant portions of countries most Americans consider “friendly” – Germany (66%), Spain (60%), France (60%), Argentina (72%), Britain (42%). In emerging markets considered “must win” by US business, the numbers are troubling – Brazil (51%), Russia (48%), India (28%), China (57%). Other research has shown that this negativity can translate into an effort to avoid US brands, particularly among consumers under 40.

I have experienced this firsthand during my frequent trips around the globe. In my experience, the most troubling sentiment is concentrated in Europe. Before 9/11, when the topic of America came up, and it always did, the conversation centered around the “minor” differences in US versus European life, political structures, business and cultural norms. Discussions ensued over the approach America has taken versus Europe (e.g. freeways versus rail transportation), in the last half-century or so, and while I cannot remember a time where we all agreed about every topic, the conversation was cordial, lively, and left all parties pondering their positions.

Shortly after 9/11, there was unanimous sympathy for the US. Any differences seemed insignificant. I even had conversations with many of my European friends where they openly supported the United States’ right to defend herself and hoped we would. They clearly understood the role of the United States as the lone superpower and were concerned that if we did not confront and destroy the terrorists, who would.

Post 9/11, the tone has changed dramatically. I have talked to very few who support our current approach to the war on terror. Regardless of what we think of the approach, it is almost universally unpopular. The minor differences now seem like impossible chasms. For those friends and colleagues that will still engage in a discussion on politics with me, the tone is acrimonious. This has a chilling effect on business.

Americans need to be persuaded that more interaction and better engagement with the rest of the globe is important and worthwhile. It is also vital to having large and important chunks of the global population engage with us.

I understand and accept that we must sometimes take an unpopular path. We must protect our citizens and our interests around the world. While there are vastly different viewpoints on how best to achieve this, the goal is the same. By recognizing this unanimity of purpose, eventually I hope the divisions will be mended. Although the current US policies create is a chilling effect on our relationship with our friends and on business, I believe it is through our business relationships that we will ultimately rebuild our relationship with the rest of the world.

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