The Power of Periscope and a Startup Lesson by Dan Martell

This morning, I did not plan to attend a presentation by @DanMartell, but he just taught me (and 40 or so other Periscope followers) a micro-lesson in scaling a startup.

This is the power of Periscope…

…the ability to engage an audience, immediately, when a thought or feeling strikes you as it did today for Mr. Martell. Large-scale business/technical conference organizers take note: your industry is being disrupted.

Mr. Martell dropping knowledge

While on the way to pick up his children, Dan took the time to engage with his follower community on the topic of founder productivity. Having just had a lengthy conversation, apparently, with some fellow entrepreneurs on a boating excursion, his thoughts can be summarized as:

  1. Hire for day-to-day tasks (including cleaning, laundry, menial tasks, etc.)
  2. Hire for operational tasks (payroll, email, proposal writing, errands, etc.)
  3. Hire for sales and marketing (leverage revenue > spend activity…an example being those marketing efforts that return $3 for every $1 spent)

If you can figure out a business model to generate enough income to be able to hire these people…this is how you become a business owner rather than a business operator.

Rather than repeat and continue to distill Dan’s thoughts here. I will just link to the Periscope recording here. There are additional insights into determining to your EHR (effective hourly rate) — which should be a minimum of $100/hr), 80/20 cost analysis, and some recommended reading

Periscope is phenomenal for micro-lessons of this nature, assuming you are following the right people. Just thought I’d share.


The Willy Wonka Factor

Running Your Product Strategy like a Madman in a Chocolate Factory

As I type, my kids are watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory—not the proper original film starring Gene Wilder, mind you, but the rather goofy one with Jack Sparrow. While suppressing my misgivings for Tim Burton’s adaptation of one of my childhood favorites, I observed something interesting about the plot that is equally inspiring in both the 1971 and 2005 versions. Put simply, there is a highly desirable network effect surrounding the Wonka Bar; one that I believe can be emulated in any product-centric company if one is willing to wear the felt top hat.

In the story, the narrator tells of a chocolate factory—the chocolate factory—which is under a massive competitive attack. The trade secrets of the company are leaked and spied upon relentlessly. So much so, in fact, that Wonka chooses to shutter the factory over suffering the ongoing morass of spying and stolen intellectual property. This brings us to point number one of the Wonka Factor…

1. Be the indisputable leader in providing at least one platform-level feature which has either a secret ingredient or high barrier to being copied

Willy Wonka has Everlasting Gobstoppers, chewing gum that never loses flavor, and all the special ingredients that make up the brand. These core features make up the foundation upon which the rest of the company is built. There is no more obvious example in modern-day business of this point than Apple and the iPhone, whose industrial design has an entire army of Slugworths wondering what that secret ingredient is. Some other Wonkas with secret factories we all want Golden Tickets to:

  • Google and it’s Search Algorithm
  • Amazon and Two-day Prime Shipping
  • Tesla and the Supercharger Network
  • Pinterest and the Inspiration Graph

These are examples of companies that consistently deliver on a Wonka-like promise of unique, whimsical and habit-forming offerings in their respective markets.

Still, simply having a product or service that is highly desirable is not enough; you must have a history of successfully delivering and supporting this value to leverage the Wonka Factor. Further, that value must not be so easily replicated as to allow 100 other competitors to come into the market and lick your product’s secrets right off the walls. The snozzberries taste like snozzberries!

I know of a gas station locally that has the most expensive gasoline in town, but also a good car wash, which is always free with a fill-up. Their commercials highlight excited customers coming back for the car wash, seemingly uncaring that they spend $6 more per tank. While this gas station’s choice to offer a car wash is obvious and reproducible, it is an expensive addition to the overall value offering and thus represents a high barrier feature.

But the competition never rests. Before Slugworth and his ilk chipped away at Wonka’s market share, he was the best in town. Everyone wanted his stuff. So, when the competition looms on the horizon it becomes increasingly important to keep existing customers loyal. But that loyalty must be rewarded

2. Reward loyalty with a truly timeless experience, something that is worthy of resurrecting should it ever go away

The Golden Ticket. While it ultimately represented the mechanism for Wonka to find his successor, it was also a supremely effective marketing ploy to relaunch the Wonka Bar brand. A chance for anyone, of any walk of life, to experience something magical…if only for a day. The entire world was enthralled with the chance at winning, even if only 5 tickets were ever produced.

There are many products and experiences that, were they to go away there would be an innate yearning for it to make a return. Some examples:

  • Chevrolet Corvette
  • Herman Miller Aeron Chair
  • Amazon’s 1-Click Ordering
  • Subzero Refrigerator
  • Oreo Cookie

These products have become part of our culture, like landmarks for us to contextualize our daily interactions with the world around us. Take away these landmarks and one is left wandering around trying to find new versions of them, often peddled by the Slugworths of the world who never seem to get it right.

The Golden Ticket was a chance to resurrect the household-name-normalcy of the Willy Wonka brand. A chance to be part of that resurrection for a fan of the brand is something very visceral, calling one back to something profound. If you’ve achieved this level of Wonkafication, your product or service is likely indistinguishable from your brand; your customers indistinguishable from your advocates, your employees indistinguishable from your Marketing team.

And finally…

3. Actualize someone’s dream, so that you might go on dreaming new things.

As I watch Gene Wilder casually flying through the air in a flying elevator, explaining to Charlie that the chocolate factory is now his, it’s a moment of uplifting clarity about the purpose of the entire film. This is the moment that the dreams of one man passes on to another, so that the vision does not die with the man.

We should strive to build products and services that are worth passing on to the world. As cliché as it may seem, the makers of the world should seek to execute ideas worth remembering…the Everlasting Gobstopper of our lives.


Google+ and Hangouts Need Just One Thing

How Google Could Own All Communication

There is one thing preventing Google Plus and Hangouts from becoming massive. Simply put, it’s the fact that my personal and work Google accounts (and all the other accounts I have) cannot be rolled into one, socially-connected and all encompassing “communication” profile.

Imagine if LinkedIn or Facebook operated this way, giving you a new account for every email you managed on the platform. Each identity within those systems would become a weak facsimile, a ghost, of the other profile. This is exactly what happens with Google+.

Here is my work Google+ profile:

And the Google+ profile page for my personal Gmail:

Which one would you follow? Why would you pick one over the other?

The fact that one has to ask “which one of these is the ‘real Brad’” manifests itself throughout the Google ecosystem. If you’re using Hangouts at work, for instance, look what happens when you search for your coworker, Brad Ledford:

Both personal and work accounts show in the results, along with the myriad other Brad Ledfords in the Interwebs. This is confusing enough that my wife consistently uses my work account to chat with me (which I find exceedingly annoying, honey!) when the more appropriate account would be my personal one. I also consistently get emails from people who found my page on Google+, likely from ranking highly in search results, but are ultimately communicating with the wrong Brad. Sidebar: Hey Brad in North Carolina…you’re a popular dude but you need better SEO!

So what’s the big deal? Is this even a real problem to solve?

Yes. It’s huge because there are already too many ways to communicate in the modern suite of daily-use applications. Facebook, Gmail, LinkedIn, SMS, and their ilk all try to maintain open systems of communication, bending us into mental pretzels try and manage it all. Having multiple channels of communication open within the Google ecosystem is like adding salt to the, uh, pretzel.

If done well, I think Google+ and Hangouts could be at the center of it all, binding our systems and their activity feeds into a single realtime communication profile. I imagine this as a simple Venn diagram with g+ in the middle.

Is it possible or has Facebook messaging already beat Google to the punch?


A Kink in the Fire Hose

How I Unfriended 160 People, Denied Skill Endorsements and Found Some Sanity

A few weeks ago, I found myself staring at a Facebook post that probably resonates with many of you. A “friend” had just indicated that they liked a particular link from The Oatmeal. It was a minor distraction, but for me it was the last straw on the proverbial camel’s back. I neither needed nor wanted this and the thousands of distractions that preceded it no matter how funny, ironic, or inspiring. I took the next 3 hours and unfriended this person and 159 others.

Immediately, my use of Facebook dropped to almost nothing, as I was not getting pinged with alerts to check my feed. Beautiful.

Yet, it leaves one to wonder: is there is any natural reprieve from this onslaught of social activity? How do we stay connected but still not suffer the rising tide of distracting content, direct ads, and subtle promotional marketing? This is not seemingly an easy answer, as previous attempts at using the more granular and one-thing-at-a-time filtering mechanisms in Facebook were getting me no where…I had to purge.

The purge is likely to be the answer for many for the foreseeable future. With so many channels of communication open, receiving too much social chatter is like a Web server backed up with too many requests…sometimes it’s easier to just bounce the server than kill threads one a time. But social networks, shopping engines, and media sites don’t appreciate this “screw it, I’m done” mentality and rather want to avoid it due to the vanity metrics that would be lost so quickly.

And that’s unfortunate, since I believe that shopping, socializing, and consuming content is an experience that the user should control, entirely. Imagine a big button in Facebook labeled “Shut off Ads for…days” or an Instagram option to “Go Private” with your photo stream. Or perhaps a mode in Amazon that extolled a link to “Browse like someone who loves books” even though Amazonian big data says I actually like to browse for UHD TVs…shhhh, I’m cultured I swear! I would pay for these options and I believe others would too.

In the past few days, I took my social decoupling a bit further and removed a lot of attributes about me on LinkedIn, including skills which I had been endorsed for that I really have no expertise in, and other services that track interests and demographics. I’ve noticed a much more dynamic and diverse set of content on at least my LinkedIn feed, but the fire hose of “stuff” in my feed continues to swell. I’m now left to wonder what a “purge” in LinkedIn would look and feel like, to myself and others.

Alas, though, the purge has given me back some sanity and I will likely do it again, probably no later than 3 months from now. I may even resort to digital hermit-ism if it comes to it, given how advanced search marketing is becoming…a dichotomy for someone in e-commerce. Will those of us in B2C product development and design ever learn to be more respectful of the fire hose we all have planted to our lips? Can I share content such as this article without contributing to others’ woes?