This just in – I’m worried. In my head, I actually said it, “This just in – I’m troubled.” This is a more personal post. (Arguable to say all of my posts are personal posts.)
I’m staring at the new year. Then, I’m staring at the work in front of me at SalesWise. Then, I stare at the glimpse of a life I aspire to achieve. Then, I stare at the reality. In many ways, they’re all in conflict. They’re not wholly exclusive from one another.
I’m thinking about the life I aspire for, but it comes at a substantial cost today with no promises of the future. How do I build a company worth a damn, and still meet (let alone exceed) the expectations of others around me?
I’m worried. I’m troubled.
Coming soon is my birthday. But more importantly, there is time passing by that I also realize is shared with others, like a girlfriend. I can sacrifice some of my time, but at some point, I am now expensing others.
Life won’t slow down. As much as I want to do certain things, visit certain places, build a certain life, it all comes with costs – opportunity costs.
Wanting to be an entrepreneur, and being one are completely different things. Right now, I want to be one since I am working for someone else’s company. I’m building the wealth for another. I’m forgoing much of the risk of being an entrepreneur. Though, I’ve also compromised. I’m forgoing, perhaps, much more security (money) than a larger corporation.
The great part is that the new year is full of decisions that have to be made, and they’re all my decisions. I’ll have to make many decisions soon. They’ll have big ripple effects on the future. They may even dictate if I should ever be an entrepreneur again.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’m worried.
F*ck. Grabs your attention, right? Leave it to Mark Manson, then, to write a book titled, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”. Call it another “self-improvement” guide to attaining that oh-so-happy-life. Except Mark does so dropping f-bombs. A lot.
As I wrote a couple weeks ago in Frustration from Nothing, the book started to resonate with me from the first chapter. The point in that post and in a recurring theme of the book was being happy with the present – not always striving for more.
Some good tidbits of wisdom in the book:
  • Less about not not giving a f*ck. More about giving the right f*cks. That is, giving f*cks too often and for everything is a waste of time and creates unhappiness. Instead, Mark espouses giving f*cks about the things that matter.
  • Giving the right f*cks requires recalibrating one’s value system. Values are easily said, but more difficult to live and take action of. What one does a conscious decision made and in accordance with one’s values. If actions and words are in conflict, then ones values may actually be different as well.
  • There are always problems. Life is really full of problems, one after another. The result, then, is what problems a person chooses to live with. What problems excitethe person.
  • Just do something. Don’t wait for the motivation to do something. Instead, do something, and let the reactions of doing something take over. Action can createmotivation.
  • Too often, we get stuck believing in our original beliefs due to the culture we’ve surrounded ourselves with. Traveling enables us to immerse ourselves and experience the cultures and ideas beyond our worlds. Traveling exposes us to thinking beyond our own ideas. Traveling shows us it’s possible to live in a world with completely different values from our own.

Mark Manson’s book was enjoyable not only for resonating with my own ideas, but also shedding light on ideas I hadn’t considered, or considered but didn’t understand – the notion about travel and its ability to show us cultures vastly different from my own, as one example.

Plus, he cusses. A lot. It’s refreshing, too.
I came across this video from Moz “Designing a Page’s Content Flow to Maximize SEO Opportunity – Whiteboard Friday”. I thought it was a good short video on designing a page to cater to the needs of a web visitor. Too often, content is buried or scattered throughout a page. This video does a good job of describing how to easily and effectively lay out a page.
A couple of the key questions that should be answered and considered are:
  1. What is a web visitor searching for?
  2. What are other intentions of a web visitor? What priorities?

Based on the priorities, a web layout should flow from satisfying the primary intent first – at the top of the page. As the page scrolls, then, layout content accordingly.

Check out the video.
Creating an effective landing page (or website for that matter) can be both art and science. Landing pages are used to test interaction and interest in a product or service. They are used to iterate towards higher conversions (whatever the call-to-action (CTA)).
The art of the landing page is the combination of several characteristics including images (or, literally, “art”), copy, call-to-actions, and user forms. It can be difficult to determine the right detail. Thank goodness for variant-testing from services like Landing Lion and Unbounce.
For today, I’d like to hit home on key aspects of the user form as it is oftentimes the critical step of conversion.
  • Know the audience. As in any marketing, product, or sales initiative, knowing and understanding the market is critical. It’s step one. Knowing the audience enables a landing page builder to employ the right semantics & style and ask for the right data points.
  • Ask for what’s needed. Per Eloqua’s benchmark data from 3Q 2011 (see image below, provided by Hubspot), 61.4% user forms have 5-10 fields and convert ~40% of unique visitors. Too few fields (assuming the “right” ones) hampers sales from engaging the visitors with personalization while disabling marketing from iterating their efforts for high conversion. Too many will scare off visitors from taking the time to enter info.
  • Check the CTA. Impact Boundsuggests making the CTA be both action-oriented and benefit-oriented. Help the visitor know what s/he is getting by completing the form.

The user form is just one part of a landing page/ website, but it’s the critical piece to converting a web visitor outside of direct contact (i.e. email, call). As mentioned before, test the user form with a landing page builder service.

There’s a story in Robert Cialdini’s book Influenceabout pricing strategy and psychology. The story goes that a Native American jewelry store had an abundance of turquoise jewelry. 
The owner wanted to move the inventory, and tried several sales best practices including product placement and advising her staff to push the jewelry. However, the inventory didn’t move.
As the owner was leaving for a business trip, she scribbled a note for the manager to move the inventory by cutting the price in half.
When the owner returned, all of the inventory had sold. The remarkable part of this story, however, is that the manager misread the note – doubling the price instead of halving!
The previously unsellable jewelry became sellable. Customers associated the high cost of the pieces as high quality.
Consider the factors at play when considering pricing products and services. The market does not always dictate price as you might expect.
I talked with friends recently about the end of Body Boss, and the air of “unfinished business”. They noted my tone of disappointment. In my book, Postmortem of a Failed Startup, I noted a number of reasons why we failed. However, there were signs of turning a corner. One of my friends was curious if that was indeed the case, and mentioned Seth Godin’s The Dip.
The Dip recognizes the importance of pushing through challenging moments and when not to (“quit”).
Take-aways:
  • Dip vs. cul-de-sac. In any endeavor, after the initial novelty and possible early success, there follows a challenging period. Godin refers to this as the “dip”. In these situations, there’s a lift after the dip towards “success”. Godin is quick to point out that there’s also the “cul-de-sac”. The cul-de-sac refers to the situation where there is no lift, no emergence to success. A dip is temporary. Cul-de-sac is forever (or too extensive). It’s important to recognize if one is in one or the other.
  • Be the best in the world. Godin points out how culture celebrates being the best – from sports professionals to actors. Being the best means digging in deep on what one is best at. This means quitting what one is not good at and cannot be the best at, or if possible, not even trying from the get-go. Quitting enables focus. Being the best means emerging from the dip and avoiding cul-de-sacs.
  • Know when to quit before starting. Easier said than done. The recommendation is to quit before starting a cul-de-sac situation – effort, thus, not wasted. But if starting, Godin suggests writing down the conditions that would be necessary to quit. Writing down the extreme conditions that would lead to quitting means any lesser conditions mean continuation.

The Dip is less than 100 pages – a quick read that may help the reader recognize life situations that may be playing out today – dip or cul-de-sac?

A friend recently spoke to me about an idea from helping clients work out tedious real estate issues. He worked with several clients who had poor management of a particular aspect of the business. Most of the work was done painstakingly in Excel, if any process was instilled. 
Like any idea, there are several risks. However, we talked about early mitigations:
  • Risk: As a standalone tool for a single “client”, usage would be infrequent. For one client, the problem occurs every several weeks. Mitigation: The target customer is an entity that manages several clients. This enables more frequency of the problem and exponentially increasing the pain. Thus, the benefit, too, exponentially increases.
  • Risk: Explicit pain could be felt with management of several spreadsheets. However, quantifying the impact of pain could be difficult. Mitigation: Benefits start with both monetary and legal exposure. As added bonus, there was a time-saving component. Stick to benefits that get closer to the wallet.
  • Risk: Is this a big enough opportunity? Are there competitors/ monetized solutions today? Mitigation: My friend had a colleague who left his company to start his own – similar services for clients. Meanwhile, my friend’s clients are large institutions and just a few of the large firms in Atlanta. Additionally, macro-economic environment points to a growing trend.
  • Risk: Introduction of a new solution to companies/ employees – adoption. Mitigation: the pain seems explicit and with good benefit potential. Many of my friend’s current clients are using incumbent solutions (i.e. spreadsheets). This also could enable an “import” process addressing empty-state issues.

A good early step is doing customer discovery. While doing so, ask prospects to agree to pilots of an MVP.

I just started listening to The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson. Perhaps it’s the number of F-bombs being so liberally dropped, but the message has been highly enjoyable and resonating. Within the first chapter, I realized an important inverse point to my post “Who do you envy?” That inverse point being, “Why are you not satisfied with what you do have?”
The desires to always improve and have “more” runs deep within me. Coincidentally, the morning before I started the book, I thought about adequacy of the things I already have. I thought about how my frustration dealing with UPS on the phone for 30 minutes for an object I didn’t need.
I was on hold that morning, just as I was on hold for 20 minutes the night before. I was frustrated. I order a pair of shoes just days earlier, and the shipment was delayed. After the fourth call, I realized I was frustrated seemingly for no good reason.
  1. The shoes I ordered were purely out of pleasure. I didn’t need or really want new shoes. However, the marketing automation gremlins got me with a deal on a pair that were intriguing. If I didn’t see or take advantage of this deal, I would not have been frustrated. I would not have cared.
  2. I signed up for a free service during checkout espousing 2-day shipping. 2-day shipping is my benchmark now that I’m an avid Amazon Prime member. This applies to every merchant for me – and I expect free shipping. However, I received a notification that I would get the shoes in 3 days.
  3. The shoes didn’t arrive on the 3rdday. The courier cited incorrect address for failure/ delay. Except, it’s the right address. The courier’s dispatch couldn’t address this in time for the courier to re-try.
  4. I learned on the 4th day that I wouldn’t get the shoes for another two days. The UPS partner was closed on Saturday.

Too many infractions cut me a frustrated figure. The frustration was borne from a purely pleasure-seeking motive – a needless pair of shoes. From then on, my expectations took over. Despite only recently wanting the shoes, I was surprisingly very frustrated.

Amazing.
I met with young professional several months ago who was looking for advice on the Atlanta startup scene as well as to share that she was in the market. She, like many others I’ve met, start out describing how they liked new challenges, feel a part of the company, work with a team, etc. If you read that and were wondering, “so what?”, you’re not alone.
What many people describe in their “next job search” are table stakes today. Why wouldn’t you want new challenges? Why wouldn’t you want to feel a part of the company? There needs to be specificity.
I liken this to the oft-written online dating profile. If you’ve been on any online dating site or app, many profiles read the exact same – “I’m nice, funny, love to travel…” You don’t say?.. Everyone says the same.
In fact, here are a few excerpts of actual submissions to a job requisition when asked, “Who are you?”

  • “strengths lie in developing customer relationships with my energetic personality”
  • “I am a well organized, enthusiastic, coachable professional”
  • “I have a proven track record of success”

Much like seeking a job opportunity or other partner, seekers should be more specific. What really drives the seeker? What type of challenges? What challenges do you notlike? What have you actually accomplished?

These are better examples:

  • “sales leader with a diverse background in Inside Sales, B2B Sales, Digital Advertising Sales, and Sales Management”
  • “After spending the past three years working as the Marketing Manager for an eCommerce SEM agency”
  • “They don’t always pan out, but constantly innovating and reinventing everyday activities in our lives has certainly made my life more interesting”

These share more details and are much more specific. They illustrate traits that the prior examples just list.

Think about the specifics.
CNBC reported a few days ago how Robert Wang, founder and CEO of the company behind Instant Pot, still reads all (more likely most) of customer reviews on Amazon (article link). That totals almost 39,000 reviews of the invention he launched almost 7 years ago modernizing the original Crock-Pot.
Wang looks to customer reviews as sources of inspiration and quality assurance. For example, Wang cites reviews for the inspiration to build the Bluetooth-connected iteration of the beloved Instant Pot.
Instant Pot’s Amazon-first sales channel has enabled Wang to spend little on advertising and focus almost strictly on product. This strategy has helped the Instant Pot to sell over 215,000 units on Amazon’s Prime Day recently. Yes, that’s in hundreds ofthousands. Impressive.
Wang is not a business man by trade (or entrepreneur); though, Wang did cofound a messaging company prior to Instant Pot (before being forced out.) Instead, Wang is an engineer. He and his cofounders focused on the product. They made the product great with smart marketing tactics (leveraging social media).
Make a great product. Delight customers. Be opportunistic.