The simple power of one a day

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There are at least 200 working days a year.

If you commit to doing a simple marketing item just once each day, at the end of the year you have built a mountain.

Here are some things you might try [don’t do them all at once, just one of these once a day would change things for you]:

  • Send a handwritten and personal thank you note to a customer
  • Write a blog post about how someone is using your product or service
  • Research and post a short article about how something in your industry works
  • Introduce one colleague to another in a significant way that benefits both of them
  • Read the first three chapters of a business or other how-to book
  • Record a video that teaches your customers how to do something
  • Teach at least one of your employees a new skill
  • Go for a ten minute walk and come back with at least five written ideas on how to improve what you offer the world
  • Change something on your website and record how it changes interactions
  • Help a non-profit in a signficant way [make a fundraising call, do outreach]
  • Find out something you did not know about one of your employees or customers or co-workers

Enough molehills is all you need to have a mountain.

The Legacy of Bra Hugh Masekela

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A lot of people can tell much better stories about the impact that Rre Hugh Masekela has had on the world stage.

There are so many lessons we can learn from Bra Hugh, as he is affectionately know.

He left a rich legacy.

He was a master at storytelling.

His music was storytelling, in his song Stimela [the coaltrain] he recounts the hardship of black migrant workers in South Africa’s coal mines. Listening to the song, he paints a picture of journey, the fears and hopes of the workers as the board Stimela.

He says:

“Deep, deep, deep down in the belly of the earth
When they are digging and drilling that shiny mighty evasive stone,
Or when they dish that mish mesh mush food
into their iron plates with the iron shank.
Or when they sit in their stinking, funky, filthy,
Flea-ridden barracks and hostels.
They think about the loved ones they may never see again
Because they might have already been forcibly removed
From where they last left them
Or wantonly murdered in the dead of night
By roving, marauding gangs of no particular origin,
We are told.”

In the song Marketplace he paints his encounter with this beautiful woman at the marketplace.

He says:

I see her floating lazily
Through the market like a butterfly
I won’t forget the day the sun came shining in
Just like the dawn, in the rain that sprays all that sunshine on Congo
A flaming torch she lit up the marketplace so brightly

In his song Chileshe, he says:

Hela Chileshe
Ungaba yeki baku bizi ikirimani
Nawe ngumuntu

Loosely translates meaning: Hey Chileshe, don’t allow them to call you derogatory names, you are also a human being.

He tells more stories in his book Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela

One fascinating story he tells is the advice he received from the legendary Miles Davis.

Miles said to Hugh:

“You’re trying to play like me. You’re just going to be a statistic if you play jazz,”

Davis tells him.

“But if you put in some of the stuff you remember from Africa, you’ll be different from everybody.”

Basically, Miles was saying to Bra Hugh, those who make history are those who stand out and not fit in.

Don’t stand out for the sake of standing out, stand out because it is better.

In the process of standing out, tell stories, people remember stories more than facts and figures.

Tell stories that resonates.

Boy oh boy, Bra Hugh stood out and told stories.

The story of Stimela, Chileshe, Marketplace, Bring Back Nelson Mandela and other resonates with many people.

We will remember his legacy and stories for decades and centuries to come.

Bra Hugh has left the building, but let the music play.

No more pain.

 

Marketing lousy products: Barbershop stories

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Yesterday I went to the barbershop to cut my hair, or rather shave it, as I usually do every week.

The thing with going to the barbershop is that you will get to hear stories of what’s happening in the neighbourhood. More like gossip of who did what, when, etc.

As I was having a small talk with the barber, he tells me of this one loyal client who is rich and powerful who when he comes to the salon, he doesn’t make an appointment, he just rocks up and doesn’t join the queue of patrons waiting to be attended to.

When he gets there, they have to explain to waiting customers to wait a bit more so that they can attend to the “esteemed” client.

You see, he is not a normal client he tells me, he pays a lot more sometime double for his hair cut, and everyone is afraid of him in the community.

So other normal new clients just have to understand that this one “esteemed” loyal client is important, impossible to please and pays a lot more.

Hence the marketing dilemma: who should get your best effort and better treatment?

Should it be the new customer who you just might be able to convert into a long-term customer?

Or should it be the loyal customer who is already valuable?

Sorry, but the answer is this: you can’t make your customers to wait because of this one seemingly “esteemed” client who pays more.

No one wants to settle for being made to wait, no one wants to settle for your worst salesperson, your second-rate items. Not the new customers and not the loyal ones…

Which means you need to figure out how to improve your lesser offerings.

Maybe offer the waiting clients special treatment on your offering as compensation for waiting, make is worth their while for having to wait, give then special treatment, free massage service, or something.

Treat different people differently. But don’t treat anyone worse.

Marketing lousy products: Wallpaper

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Is Marketing more needed when the product is bad?

If we think marketing is the wallpaper we put over a worn-out wall to make it look pretty enough to sell the house, then the answer is yes.

If we think that marketing is speaking truth to the engineers, the product developers, the customer service people so they would actually make it better, then the answer is yes.

In both cases, the answer is yes. But, this is not the best kind of marketing, even though it works, short-term.

The fact is Wikipedia, not a big marketing department, no business model, they are doing fine because the product market itself.

That is what it means to be a great marketer, to invent a product that is “the marketing”.

That is why we need marketing.

It is not about how you much noise you make to tweak up 2% sales, that is not the whole problem.

The genius work of marketing is to bring a voice into the production room that makes something that changes us, that changes our choices, that changes our dreams, that’s what we marketers do.

Marketers make change happen before production even starts.

Trying to market a product that’s ready for the market is too late, marketing starts with idea conceptualisation, design, look and feel, packaging etc.

Marketing should start even before the product is manufactured.

Kaizer Chiefs vs. Orlando Pirates, Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Manchester Derbies are sold out even before the marketing of these games starts.

Why?

The product is the marketing.

Don’t think about marketing too late in the process, instead make marketing part of the product manufacturing, this is how to get to make the product the marketing.

 

Marketing lousy products: non-starter

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One of the cardinal rules of starting and growing a startup is that you must not grow your startup until you know your product in a must-have, why it is a must have, and to whom it is a must have: in other words, what is its core value, to which customers, and why.

The attractive narrative that most entrepreneurs believe is that to grow your business you have to increase the marketing budget.

As the saying goes: you have to spend money to make money.

But the hard truth is that no amount of marketing and advertising, no matter how clever, can make people love a substandard product.

A glitzy launch can create some initial interest, but if your product doesn’t wow people, all the celebrity spokespeople and multimillion-rands ad campaigns in the world won’t result in sustainable product.

If the product is lousy, there is no great marketing that’s going to save it.

 

“I get it”

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No, I don’t have to attend that workshop, I have a degree, I’m qualified.

No need to get a mentor, I have got this under control.

I don’t need to read the user manual, I know how to use this.

No need to read the whole book, I can just glance over the back summary… I get it.

I don’t need to hear your whole pitch, just show me the summary slide… got it.

No, I already heard about your vacation… remember, I saw the Instagram feed.

Him, why would I go out with him? I went though his social media timeline and profile, I know his kind.

You are probably smart enough to ‘get it’ merely by reading the 140 character summary of just about anything.

But of course, that does not mean you understand it, or that it changed you.

All it means is that you were quickly able to sort it into an appropriate category, to make a decision about where it belongs in your mental filing cabinet.

The best experiences and the biggest ideas do not fit into a category. They change it. They do not get filed away, they transform us.

It is entirely possible that you can process and file more information than anyone who has come before you.

And quite likely that this filing is preventing you from growing and changing and confronting the fear that is holding you back.

You get it? No you don’t. Not yet. Because all you have gotten is a tweet.

Read the book. The whole thing. Use the product. A few times. More than a few times.

Immersed. It can change you.

Treating people with kindness

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One theory says that if you treat people well, you are more likely to encourage them to do what you want, making all the effort pay off.

Do this, get that.

Another one, which I prefer, is that you might consider treating people with kindness merely because you can.

Regardless of what they choose to do in response, this is what you choose to do.

Because you can.

Do Work That Matters: Rejecting a Lamborghini as a gift

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When he was presented with a gift of a white-painted, special edition Lamborghini Huracan, which sells for around 180,000 euros, perfectly matched his white cassock, the Pope rejected it.

Instead he announced that the vehicle will be auctioned at the proceeds to go to three of his favoured charities.

In a materialistic world we live in, where poverty and inequality is the hallmarks of what describes the world, leaders and people who display what Pope Francis did are in limited supply.

This is a classing example of doing work that matters, work that impacts others, that changes them for the better.

New Year’s resolutions rarely work, because good intentions don’t often survive a collision with reality.

But an inventory is a helpful tool, a way to keep track of habits you are building. Drip by drip.

The following is a useful inventory list of resolutions as recommended by The Pope’s:

  1. Don’t gossip.
  2. Finish your meals.
  3. Make time for others.
  4. Choose the ‘more humble’ purchase.
  5. Meet the poor ‘in the flesh.’
  6. Stop judging others.
  7. Befriend those who disagree.
  8. Make commitments, such as marriage.
  9. Make it a habit to ‘ask the Lord.’
  10. Be happy.

Given that the Lamborghini was personally blessed by the Pope, it is tipped to fetch twice its market price with some of the funds said will go to charities that help women who are trafficked and forced into prostitution, and those that provide medical care in Africa.

 

My favourite is #5.

Hummingbird effect in innovation: Telescope and microscope

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Let’s rewind to my earlier post about hummingbird effect in printing press and reading glasses.

We have established through Steven Johnson that the hummingbird effect means: An innovation in one sector leading to another innovation in another sector.

As a result we have established that Johannes Gutenberg’s innovation of the printing press democratized access to books to millions of people who could not access them before.

When people started reading, some people went like “wait a minute, I can’t read this.” because they were shortsighted.

This problem led to the innovation of reading glasses.

To take a step further, what Guttenburg’s innovation did beyond leading to the creation of reading glasses industry, it is also led to the revolution of the microscope and telescope industry.

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You see, as innovators in the reading glasses industry [which is a derivative of the printing press] were tinkering with glass and reading glasses, they also created the microscope and telescope using the same glass.

They used glass to bring things that were too far or tiny closer to our eyes and this revolutionized science in a massive way.

Through the telescope we are able to zoom into orbit and discover other planets and stars.

Through the microscope we are able to zoom into small insects and analyse them.

Through the microscope we are able to zoom into our blood and see tissue cells, which led to our understanding of bacteria and viruses which led to our ability to deal with health challenges and increase our life-spans.

So the hummingbird effect in one sector [printing and creation of books] lead to the creation of a different industry [reading glasses] which also led to another completely different industry [telescope, tissue cells, discovery of other planets].

Innovation in one industry has a huge potential to lead to creation of other industries.

When innovation is introduced into a market, sometimes the best response is not to quickly rush to be the early adopter, but to quickly rush to be the innovator on the next thing that the initial innovation will lead to.

There is always the hummingbird effect on each new innovation.

Figure out where the next bounce of the ball will be and innovate there.

Hummingbird effect in innovation: Air conditioning

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Before the air conditioner was invented, keeping rooms cooler was a tedious near impossible task.

One way to keep rooms cooler then was by selling snow blocks in cold countries to hot countries so that folks at hot countries could use them to keep themselves cooler.

A Boston entrepreneur, Frederic Tudor began carving blocks of ice from New England’s frozen lakes in winter, insulating them in sawdust, and shipping them to warmer countries for summer.

This was a profitable business for almost 100 years.

Air conditioning as we know it began in 1902, and it started as nothing to do with human comfort.

The workers at Sackett & Willems Lithography and Printing Company were frustrated with varying humidity levels when trying to print in cooler.

The printing process required the same paper to be printed four times in four different colours.

If the humidity in the room changed between print runs, the paper would slightly expand or contract, making the printout to look awful.

The company then asked Willis Carrier who worked at a heating company, to come up with a solution to keep the room temperature controlled at all times.

Willis devised a solution of circulating air over coils that were chilled by compressed ammonia maintained the humidity at a constant 55 degrees.

Willis took his invention and targeted other areas that hosted a lot of people such as theatres.

At the time before the air conditioner, theatres were shut down for summer, because they were stifling hot, and nobody wanted to see a play in extremely hot theaters.

It is not hard to imagine why: no windows, human bodies tightly packed, and before electricity, lighting was provided by flares that gave off heat.

The hummingbird effect of what started as a solution to one industry [colour printing], because a huge solution to another industry [theatres, computer rooms, offices, our homes]

Innovation has a way of assuming a life of its own.

What started as one thing for a particular sector, evolves into something else for another sector.

Someone comes up with a new technology to solve a problem, but the solution also has an effect on seemingly unrelated fields.

While sitting in your office during summer, being stuck in traffic in your car, or watching a movie, remember that the cool temperature you feeling came from a solution to a printing problem, somehow that solution found its way to where you are now.

Hummingbird bird effect in innovation: Printing press and reading glasses

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Steven Johnson writes a lot about the Hummingbird effect in his amazing book: How We Got to Now.

It is through  nectars provided by flowers that we have birds extracting nectar midair.

Despite the restrictions placed on them by their skeletal structure, hummingbirds evolved a novel way of rotating their wings, giving power to the upstroke as well as the downstroke, enabling them to float mid-air while extracting nectar from a flower.

One thing in one sector [flowers and nectars] led to another thing in another sector [birds and hummingbirds]

The history of ideas and innovation unfolds in a similar way. Consider Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press.

Gutenberg invented the printing press at a time when 96% of society was illiterate. He identified a problem and created a solution that the world didn’t know it needed.

Everyone knows that the printing press changed the way information was stored and shared, triggering multiple revolutions in science and theology and art.

But it also had a less celebrated, but crucial, effect on a seemingly unrelated field:

The printing press created a surge in demand for reading spectacles, as the new practice of reading made people suddenly realise that they were farsighted.

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The hummingbird effect in one field [printing press] led to the invention of reading glasses.

Before books came along, most people had no need to discern tiny figures on a page.

The market demand for spectacles encouraged a growing number of people to produce and experiment with lenses, which led to the invention of the microscope, which shortly thereafter enabled us to perceive that our bodies were made up of microscopic cells.

It is important to always be on the lookout for the hummingbird effect when new innovations come into the industry.