Is the Consumer the Customer?

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Entrepreneurs think they the same person.

They are not.

The consumer and the customer are not necessarily one and the same.

They may be the same, but there are instance when they are not and it’s important to understand the difference between customers and consumers.

For example, when you sell kids toys.

Who is the consumer and who is the customer?

The customer, is the decision-maker, the one who has the budget, the one who pays.

The consumer is the user, she consumes.

Understanding this, is the difference between understanding to how to advertise and who to advertise to.

Is your advertising message designed and directed to the parent or the child? Is it designed to the decision maker or the customer, does it matter?

Understanding this is understanding the difference between the buyer [customer] and the user [user]. In South Africa we call them blessers [customers] and the blessed [consumers].

Another example, when a man walks into a lingerie section to buy lingerie as a gift for his wife, he is the customer, but not consumer.

When a sales-assistant advices and sells to his romantic man, she advises him on various options as a customer, not consumer.

Last example, when you buy dog food, you are the customer, the dog can’t possible be the customer, the dog is the consumer.

This insight inevitably alters how you tell the story of the products you sell and the change you are trying to create.

We don’t only buy things that are useful. We often buy things because of the story they enable us to tell ourselves about the kind of pet owner, parent or partner we are.

Successful brand stories speak to the heart and the head of the decision-maker, who may not be the person [or animal] whose needs the product was designed to satisfy.

A matter of marketing

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We live in an age when it is easier than ever to get your message in front of people.

Many businesses have a marketing strategy for getting their message seen and heard, far fewer have a plan for being believed and understood.

It is one thing to get in front of people, and another for them to choose to keep you there.

Just like your brand is not what you say it, but what your customers say it is, it is the market that dictates what matters, not the marketing.

It takes time…

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Moses has gotten myself to very fascinating spaces where he would find himself with very smart people and not measuring up to the discussions in the room.

Although he would be fascinated by the discussions and learning so much from them, he would wish he could contribute to the discussions at the same level as the smart people in the room…

But his confidence levels would be so low because he thought:

“I don’t know as much as these people in the room know. This is way beyond my league.”

Sometimes he would be asked to share his opinions on a matter and he would just vaguely mumble something that will just reinforce already stated views in the room.

And he will silently kick himself as to why he couldn’t contribute something new or a new different and fresh perspective to the discussion.

“How stupid was that, why am I in the room if I can’t contribute positively.” he would reprimand himself.

Ordinarily a person would leave such spaces because they will feel intimidated, or inferior.

But he would sit still in the back of the room, keep quiet, listen more and observe more, and learn more, and will go home, spend hours and hour reading more on the topic, taking notes, learning more, observing more, and just going deeper on these interesting topics.

And then he will again go back to those discussion rooms with those smart people, sit at the back, keep quiet, observe more and listen more and learn more.

He will repeat this over and over again on things he found fascinating.

And he will get more fascinated, will practically try things on his own, iterate here, break things there, try again and then… will start writing his thoughts, ideas, learnings and then start seeing gaps in these discussions, and then start formulating his own thought-through opinions.

The more he did this, the more he learnt, and his confidence grew, and he is able to add to the discussions, find his unique path, pioneer new initiatives and do work that matters.

A few lessons from all this:

  • There are no shortcuts to life, you have to put in the hours;
  • When you don’t know ask, ask for help, ask questions, get a mentor, seek enlightenment;
  • Be in the room, show up, be there;
  • It’s okay if you don’t know something, not knowing is not the problem, it’s when you don’t do something about it and remain in the dark that’s the problem;

  • Read more books;
  • It’s okay to say I don’t know, you can’t possibly know everything;
  • Humble yourself and listen more;

  • Adopt a life-long learning attitude;
  • It takes time, it takes patience; and
  • No manipulations, no shortcuts.

PS: You can apply this to studies, starting a business, relationships, family, life.

Book Review: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

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I love history and I love innovation. So what Steven Johnson has done with this book is he has combined both history and innovation.

He traces back to history and looks at six innovations that shapes the modern world.

Basically what Steven Johnson says is:

Hold on, every time we talk about innovation, we always refer to these cool technologies and gadgets that shapes how we do things today and going forward. How about we go back and look at how some of the historical innovations that shaped our world today.

So he goes back and looks at some of the very key innovations that often we take for granted.

Take for instance water.

Are you aware that clean drinking water is one of the coolest innovations ever and every time we drink a glass of water, we often don’t understand that there was a point in time in humanity where they didn’t have clean drinking water.

How about sound, the recording of sound, storing it and transmitting of it from one device to another, resulting in making it possible to have and use of telephones today is one other thing we often to appreciate. Yes we marvel at our cool mobile devices and what they can do but we forget or are not even aware that prior to that, someone had to innovate capturing and storing of sound into a device.

Other cool innovations Stephen Johnson focuses on are:

  • Timezones: When you look at your watch for time, you hardly ask yourself how the concept of universal time-zones was innovated;
  • Glass: From Venetian glassblowers to telescopes and microscopes;
  • Hygiene: The key innovations that let cities grow without being destroyed by disease, the germ theory of medicine, and clean rooms in microprocessor factories;
  • Light: From candles to whaling; the changes to human sleep cycles thanks to artificial light, lasers and electron microscopy.

But another amazing aspect that Steven Johnson focuses on in this book is a concept he calls the hummingbird effect. Loosely paraphrased the hummingbird effect looks at the spin-offs, or follow on or connections that flows from one innovation leading to or resulting in another innovation.

For instance, when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, resulting in books, the hummingbird effect is that books enabled lots and lots of people to start reading, and only then did some people realized how short-sighted they were.

This then resulted in the innovation of glass leading up to reading glasses, and flowing from there, the innovation of microscopes and telescopes, and from there we learned about the existence of other planets through telescopes and we could also study bacteria through microscopes.

All this resulting from Guttenberg’s innovation of the printing press.

This hummingbird effects is similar to one of the DNAs that Clayton Christensen et al refers to in their amazing book The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators.

In the The Innovator’s DNA, one of the key traits/DNA of successful innovators is associational thinking: connecting the unconnected to get innovative solutions. Instead of just focusing on one innovation, look at the spin-offs of that innovation, the next bounce of the ball, and go innovate there.

Stephen Johnson does an amazing job of taking this associational thinking further and deeper through the Hummingbird Effect.

Rating

9/10

I love Stephen Johnson, I follow his work, I watch his TED talk and other talks online. I think he is a cool dude.

Oh and by the way, there is a documentary that he and his team produced when he was doing research of this book. I have watched a couple of episodes online and that’s even way more insightful. Check it out.

If you love history and innovation, this book is for you, otherwise, you may be bored if you are not into history.

I learned so much this book and I will re-reading soon.

Favourite quotes

  • “Most discoveries become imaginable at a very specific moment in history, after which point multiple people start to imagine them.”

  • “A world without glass would strike at the foundation of modern progress: the extended lifespans that come from understanding the cell, the virus, and the bacterium; the genetic knowledge of what makes us human; the astronomer’s knowledge of our place in the universe. No material on Earth mattered more to those conceptual breakthroughs than glass.”
  • “Innovations usually begin life with an attempt to solve a specific problem, but once they get into circulation, they end up triggering other changes that would have been extremely difficult to predict.”

  • “Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press created a surge in demand for spectacles, as the new practice of reading made Europeans across the continent suddenly realize that they were farsighted; 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. You wouldn’t think that printing technology would have anything to do with the expansion of our vision down to the cellular scale, just as you wouldn’t have thought that the evolution of pollen would alter the design of a hummingbird’s wing. But that is the way change happens.”
  • “…if your great-great-great-grandfather wanted to read his book after dark, some poor soul had to crawl around in a whale’s head for an afternoon.”

  • “The garage is the space for the hacker, the tinkerer, the maker. The garage is not defined by a single field or industry; instead, it is defined by the eclectic interests of its inhabitants. It is a space where intellectual networks converge.”
  • “Edison invented the lightbulb the way Steve Jobs invented the MP3 player: he wasn’t the first, but he was the first to make something that took off in the marketplace.

  • “Every time you glance down at your smartphone to check your location, you are unwittingly consulting a network of twenty-four atomic clocks housed in satellites in low-earth orbit above you.”
  • “The lightbulb was the kind of innovation that comes together over decades, in pieces. There was no lightbulb moment in the story of the lightbulb.”

 

 

 

Making noise is not a strategy

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There is a tendency to say if I pump up the message on media, tv, print, and social, they will buy more.

That I need to make more noise and attract more attention.

That if have more followers and friends, I will influence them.

That if I display more photos, record more YouTube clips, I will grab their attention.

In the attention economy where the race is to grab more of people’s limited attention, more noise is irritating than appealing.

Customers are good at ignoring stuff, they send your spam emails to a separate folder, mute Whatsapp group messages for a year, mute you for 30 days on social media, they have ready made excuses to turn down your sales cold call.

You will need to do more than making noise… that is if you have to make noise at all in the first place.

Making noise is not a strategy.

You will need have a solid sober strategy that covers the key fundamentals.

You will need a game-plan that is sustainable.

Making noise alone is not a strategy.

You can spend time shouting as much as you want online, you will be forced to accept defeat later when the results don’t match the effort.

People who use the noise-making strategy believe noise translates into likes, clicks and site visits, which ultimately translate into sales.

We know that likes don’t translate into sales.

You will need to drive sales offline, so that you can drive them online.

Offline drives online.

So what should you do?

Step back, resist the distraction of noise making, and focus on core strategy.

Tell stories that resonates to a small group of people who matters.

Rather than trying to reach as many people as possible at the beginning, maybe focus on a specific audience and develop bespoke commercial strategies and tactics.

Have a strategy that is reviewed by your trusted advisors, and mentors.

Making noise without a strategy is making noise before defeat.

When you have a clear plan, you move from making noise to making music.

Falling out of love…

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I finally fell out of love with my favourite little cafe.

18 months ago I went there almost every day, not just for the coffee but because of how it made me feel to be there in amongst the noise, the life and the friendly faces with the smell of the ocean wafting through the open windows.

It was such a great place, everything was made right there on the premises and the owners were in the thick of it… caring, and that showed.

Last week I decided I’m never going back.

Their success has killed everything they once stood for, it’s crushed the soul out of their business [the thing that made them brilliant in the first place].

The cafe had been busy to the point of bursting for a long time.

The great mint tea (every cup), homemade food and the posture of the owners and the staff meant that people loved telling their friends about it.

Customers didn’t mind waiting for a table or paying extra for a delicious fresh brownie and the story they could tell themselves.

Then everything changed.

The business expanded.

They extended their premises.

The owners started working ‘on’ the business not ‘in’ the business.

Their new systems and processes changed the whole feel of the place and wiped the smiles off the faces of the staff.

It became obvious even to customers that the goal posts had shifted and that the first focus was maximising profit and capitalising on their growing numbers with cynical pricing.

It seems to me that their values shifted along with their metrics. They forgot what made them successful in the first place….. perhaps they never really knew.

This is not to say that you can’t go from starting small to building a hugely profitable business. I’m not implying that you should not aim to turn a good profit. It’s perfectly okay to have a change in strategy as long as you don’t have a change in values.

When entrepreneurs or organizations grow and succeed, they tend to lose some of the ideals that made them sacred.

When people succeed and get “big” they change and want to behave like “big” people do, they believe that to sustain being “big” they have to be detached, insensitive, shrewd and less emotional about issues.

They forget that they became big because of these qualities of being connected, sensitive, cared.

In every category the brands that stand out, the ones that succeed wildly, are the ones that humane and people love.

Go ahead and be the most profitable cafe, consultancy or app developer in town but don’t forget to give people a reason to love you.

Remember that sometimes failure happens when you grow bigger.

Always maintain the real story you gave your customers.

The future of your business is actually built on a lot more than what you hand over at the end of the transaction.

The shortcut…

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The secret to overnight success is that there is no such thing as an overnight success.

So here is the formula:

DO GOOD WORK X TIME = OPPORTUNITY TO SUCCEED

It turns out that taking the first step and caring enough to do it again and again is the shortcut.

If you really looked closely, most overnight successes took a long time.

 

 

Book Review: The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators by Clayton M. Christensen

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In this book, the authors [Clayton Christensen, Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen] build on what we know about disruptive innovation to show how individuals can develop the skills necessary to move progressively from idea to impact.

The reason I loved this book is that it talks about what it takes to be an innovator.

It is about physiological pre-conditions of what it takes to be innovative.

It is based on research of successful innovators and companies. These are not just opinions of the writers, these are research findings and observations.

So what are these DNAs that successful innovators have?

Innovators have the courage to innovate: which consists of challenging the status quo, and being willing to take risks.

Innovators have an important cognitive skill: associational thinking, or synthesising novel thoughts by connecting diverse inputs and fields.

  • Associating;
  • Questioning;
  • Observing;
  • Networking; and
  • Experimenting.

Innovators question the status quo, observe like anthropologists, network for new ideas, experiment by trying out new things, taking things apart, and testing out prototypes.

Then they engage in associational thinking by connecting the unconnected to get innovative solutions. In short, innovators consistently act differently to think differently.

Rating

9/10

I love this book. What I love about it is that doesn’t talk about innovation on high level, it goes deeper into what it takes to be innovation.

The book makes for an interesting and informative read, backed with lots of examples and self-assessment tables.

If creativity and competitiveness are on your agenda, this book should definitely be on your table.

My favorite quotes:

  • “The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas.”

  • “Recent IBM poll of fifteen hundred CEOs identified creativity as the number-one “leadership competency” of the future.”
  • “We adhere to the saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” while not really questioning whether “it” is “broke.”

  • “The key point here is that large companies typically fail at disruptive innovation because the top management team is dominated by individuals who have been selected for delivery skills, not discovery skills. As a result, most executives at large organizations don’t know how to think different. It isn’t something that they learn within their company, and it certainly isn’t something they are taught in business school. Business schools teach people how to be deliverers, not discoverers.”
  • “But the better you are at asking the right questions, engaging in the right observations, eliciting ideas and feedback through networking with the right people, and running experiments, the less likely you are to fail.”
  • “The innovators interviewed didn’t just ask questions, they “asked challenging questions that provoked the status quo.””

 

 

The feeling customer

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One of the mistakes we make when we are building a business and communicating our value is to only create for the thinking customer and his rational mind.

We focus on the stats, the processes. step by step, facts and figures.

Messages that resonate deeply connect with people’s feelings.

Brands we love and successful businesses appeal to their customers’ hearts, not just their heads. Wants and needs. Dreams and requirements. Desires and demands.

Apple resonated by using design.

Chuck Taylor’s All Stars appealed to the rebells.

Starbucks did it with rituals.

Airbnb leveraged belonging.

We don’t just persuade people to act.

We move them to act.

We live in an era where people are listening with their eyes and thinking with their hearts.

How are you appealing to the hearts of your customers?

Book Review: Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie

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This book matters and it is a book about doing work that matters.

What matters most to you?

Should you focus on earning a living, pursuing your passions, or devoting yourself to the causes that inspire you?

But why can’t you have it both, the surprising truth is that you don’t have to choose, and that you will find more success if you don’t.

I’m a huge fan of the concept of social business. i.e., a for-profit business where the main goal of the company is not to put money in the pockets of shareholders, but rather to make the world a better place.

Basically Blake sells shoes called TOMS.

TOMS is a derivative of the word ‘tomorrow’ and the idea that we have a better tomorrow. When Blake and his team started the project, it was called the Shoes for Tomorrow Project. Then it was just Shoes for Tomorrow and then Tomorrow’s Shoes.

But what makes TOMS special is that it is a social enterprise that has given over 1 million new pairs of shoes to children in need.

It all started when Blake took a trip to Argentina and discovered that many children did not have shoes, which caused blisters, sores, and infections.

There were charities giving out shoes to the kids, but they were dependent on donations, which meant they had little control over the supply of shoes.

Being an entrepreneur, Blake came up with the idea of starting a shoe business that would fund the giving of shoes.

When Toms sells a pair of shoes, a new pair of shoes is given to an impoverished child. Hence the campaign 1 for 1. 

This business would make profits while aiming to do good in the world.

Blake shares his story to encourage others to start something that matters and to lead a life of meaning.

Rating

9/10

I love this book. Every time I read the work that Blake does, I’m challenged to do good.

Blake shares practical tips for getting started and discusses principles for sustaining the company.

He also tells the stories of other entrepreneurs who have led lives that mattered.

This inspirational book is about one man who created a movement and made a difference to a million impoverished children.

I highly recommend this book to entrepreneurs and those outliers who want to do good.

My favourite quotes

  • “Stories are the most primitive and purest form of communication.”
  • “Supporters beat customers every time.”
  • “No matter what happens, win, lose, or draw, never forget that life goes on.”
  • “A lack of resources is no reason to avoid starting a company.”
  • “Complicated lives and heaps of possessions don’t necessarily bring happiness; in fact, they can bring the opposite”

  • “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
  • “One day, when I own a house, I’ll keep a library full of books. Books are different from other possessions-they are more like friends.”

  • “When you have a memorable story about who you are and what your mission is, your success no longer depends on how experienced you are or how many degrees you have or who you know. A good story transcends boundaries, breaks barriers, and opens doors. It is a key not only to starting a business but also to clarifying your own personal identity and choices.”
  • “Conscious capitalism is about more than simply making money—although it’s about that too. It’s about creating a successful business that also connects supporters to something that matters to them and that has great impact in the world.”
  • “No matter how convenient it is for us to reach out to people remotely, sometimes the most important task is to show up in person.”

 

 

Extraordinary is…

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In a digital world, extraordinary is…

Human.

Presence.

Care taken.

Handcrafted.

Eye contact.

Face-to-face.

Heart-to-heart.

The intangibles.

Genuine interest.

A timely response.

That feeling of belonging.

Thanking someone in person.

Executing on the small details.

Talking less and listening more.

A handwritten note inside the package.

Choosing the best ingredients even if they cost more.

Treating people the way you would want to be treated.

Extraordinary is hardly ever the extravagant gesture, it is the ordinary thing, remembered.

Drowning doesn’t look like drowning

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Mario Vittone, a trained rescue swimmer, has written extensively on drowning.

I came across his article on Slate recently and was grateful for his insight when I read it.

Here are 3 things I took away:

  1. We are conditioned by television to recognise drowning by a mix of waving, splashing, and screaming. In real life, drowning is almost deceptively quiet. It is the second highest cause of accidental death in kids below age 15. And, at least in 10% of the drownings, the adults will have no idea it is happening.
  2. When folks drown, they can’t call out for help or wave. Their bodies look vertical and their mouths appear to sink and reappear above the surface of the water. It doesn’t mean a person who is splashing and yelling in the water isn’t drowning. They are in aquatic distress but still have the power to do something about it – unlike in the case of drowning.
  3. And, in his words: “So if a crew member falls overboard and everything looks OK, don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they are drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them, “Are you all right?” If they can answer at all, they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents, children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.”

This festive season, many people will head to the beach to have fun. If you can, learn how to swim. And, once you do, be observant and safe.

But there is another form of drowning that happens away from the beach, it is during this time of the year that people drown in their own heavy emotions and end up ending their lives.

People drown in loneliness, in debt, in soulless relations, in self-pity, in pain of loss of loved one, in rejection, in failure, in the struggle, in the bewilderment.

This season, let’s reach out more to others, calling more, visiting more, inviting them over more, connecting more, reaching out more, building more bridges is more crucial now than ever before.

Don’t expect much from a drowning man. He’s not going to offer you a candy bar or ask how your day was.

He is too busy not drowning.

Generosity takes effort.

Generosity requires the space to take your mind off your own problems long enough to see someone else’s.

It requires the confidence to share when a big part of you wants to hoard.

And it requires the emotional labor of empathy.

Generosity begins by trusting ourselves enough to know that we are not actually drowning.

Thank you in advance for your generosity.