Sticking to Your Goals No Matter What

Is a very bad idea, usually.
Most of our goals and aspirations are extremely affected by our current state of mind. When I’m really thirsty, I decide to drink gallons of water when I have access to it, and I mean it. But we know what happens when the water comes. Two or three glasses are more than enough to satisfy the thirst.

Many times we set goals and objectives for ourselves as a reaction to what is going on in our lives. Nothing wrong with that, we need to respond to what’s going on and shouldn’t be blind to it. The problem is when we stick to those goals, even after we had our three glasses of water.

It’s difficult to imagine feeling warm when we are feeling cold. It’s difficult to imagine feeling full when we are hungry. And so, as the need continues to be unsatisfied, we start to exaggerate how much we need it and how happy we will be when we attain it.

The key is to differentiate between the real needs that really need following through to the end, and the ones that are reactions to a state we are going through.

The Customer is Not Always Right

Many times the customer is wrong actually. Our job as suppliers is to know more about our business than our customers do, and be able to give good advice. Many times, this means pointing out the wrong things that a customer wants, or thinks is good for them.

A few weeks ago, I had some pain in my stomach, and I had elaborate theories about what was wrong with me, and why I was feeling that pain. I went to the doctor, and after some tests it was clear how nonsensical my theories were.

I was the customer. I was wrong.

If you always tell your customers "yes" no matter what they want, and don't give your honest opinion, you risk losing your credibility. The customer wants to know that they are dealing with someone who is confident and knowledgable enough to suggest their own solutions, even when they are different from what they want.

Many other times the customer is clueless on what they want, and they need your help, and not just telling them that they their idea is the greatest thing you have ever heard.

Whether or not the customer is right is not a really useful question. The important thing to remember is that the customer is always important.

How The Very Rich Get Richer, An Example

This is one way the gap increases dramatically between people, even when there are laws to prevent that from happening, and you can apply to similar situations in other aspects of economic and social life.

Let’s say there is a loophole in the tax system. This loophole allows certain people to manipulate the system somehow and pay 10% less in taxes than they should. People start exploiting this loophole and save some money while the government makes less.

The party will soon end, when the government comes up with a new regulation, a patch basically, that covers up for the previous loophole. Now it is almost impossible to get away with that loophole and people are back to paying the full tax, and they are not saving that 10% anymore.

This new patch is not perfect, as everything in life, and it will create new loopholes in the process, but it’s still extremely difficult to get past the new regulation.

But… There are the very big guys. These people will be able to afford the country’s top tax consultant, who will hire 4 specialists in the field, spend months analyzing their specific situation, come up with a plan, and charge them, let’s say, three hundred thousand dollars for their time. The plan they suggest will also cost half a million to implement. Total cost: $800k.

Not much, if through this new plan they end up saving millions every year.

The smaller guy, let’s say, Mr. $200k cannot afford to hire such consultants, and therefore will not. He will go back to paying his taxes, and will have to wait a few more year to increase his wealth by tax savings.

The small guy? Sorry! Maybe in another lifetime.

Let’s also remember that the 10% reduction in taxes for the big guy is more than the lifetime savings of hundreds of not-yet-rich people. With this huge advantage, the big guy invests in getting more powerful in the market, and enjoys a big competitive advantage over the smaller guys.

With every new cycle of regulations and loopholes the same happens, and the gap widens. The only way out of that I can think of, is either the big guy going bankrupt, or the whole system collapsing.

Why Equal Opportunity Doesn’t Work

Because each of us is different. We all have different levels of skill, discipline, and commitment, and these also vary across fields. That’s basically why.

Imagine leaving a bunch of people, each in a separate room for six months, give them equal amounts of food, have them in a similar environment, and only give them a guitar, for example. A tiny percentage would love the opportunity of playing the guitar every day, some will like it, play a little and then give up, and the majority would not know what to do with that instrument. By the end of the experiment, the musical abilities of the group will have changed, with the people who practiced everyday (who already had better musical abilities than the rest) having improved much more than those who didn't practice. The difference in skill would be bigger than before, and their qualification in the field of music would therefore be completely different by the end of the experiment.

A similar thing would happen if you put the same people with say, painting materials, we would have a different set of people taking up painting and practicing, and our musicians might not improve a bit in painting because they might not be interested in that.

This is always happening in markets. We never have equal opportunity anyway, but even if we managed to create it in a perfect world, quickly that equilibrium will be disrupted by people’s different abilities.

It’s not only about ability, many people don’t want to be at a certain level of pressure, or responsibility, or risk certain things in their lives, so the opportunities go to the people who do. I think we should simply hope for fair, as opposed to equal opportunity, which is much easier said than done. Giving the people who have the skill, ability, and desire certain privileges, and allowing everyone to evolve at their own pace is better in my opinion.

Remember that the elite in a certain field are mere followers in other fields where others lead them. It’s not an absolute system.

Buying Advertising Like Luxury Products

When you buy an expensive watch that is priced hundreds of times more than a regular watch, it’s clear that your objective is not to know what time it is. Especially with digital watches, the cheapest digital watch, also on your phone, is more accurate than the best mechanical watch. But we still buy them. That doesn’t diminish their status as luxury products, in fact I think it increases their value as such.

Because people know that you don’t have that watch for timekeeping reasons, it is clear to everyone that it is purely a fashion statement, however you want to express that; quality, brand, story behind it, special edition, etc. It’s like owning a rare work of art that doesn’t have much practical utility but has enormous psychological value.

I have a problem when marketers buy advertising the same way we buy luxury products. When they book ads for the image it generates in the advertising community and to make a statement about the brand just to get them awards or case studies. Many times I hear extremely fluffy claims about how placing an ad in a certain placement is going to create a great effect. It’s usually how they think other marketers will perceive their ads, which is usually something completely different from how people view them. Testing some creatives across different placements can easily uncover many things that can be completely contrary to conventional wisdom.

Advertising has a function and it serves to leave an impression or send a message to the intended audience, eventually ending up in improving the sales of the business. It is not an art, although an artistic touch and creativity are needed to create messages that resonate with people and achieve the business objectives.

“2 + 2 = ?” The Essential Formula of Commerce

When a shrewd merchant was asked the sum of two plus two, he answered with a question. “Am I buying or am I selling?” Big difference.

Because if I’m buying, two plus two equals three, but if I’m selling, then two plus two is five.

If my car is worth ten thousand in the market, and I want to sell it to you, I will try to sell for eleven thousand (simply because I’m selling), and you will try to buy it at nine thousand, just because you are buying. Reverse the roles and we would both be asking for different prices.

Two plus two never equals four in the world of commerce. It is four on average because sometimes I’m buying and sometimes I’m selling.

Using the Internet, We Become More of Who We Already Are

If you are a social person there are unlimited online platforms and people that you can interact with about anything, anytime. If you love physics, there’s more physics online than you can ever dream of reading about. Music, sports, you name it we have it!

Not only is the information on most subjects more than anyone can consume in a lifetime, it’s available in the format of your preference; text, image, video, audio, app, game, or a hybrid of those. And it’s not only information that’s available, there are people, communities, events, and the top expert or celebrity in your topic of choice is just a tweet away.

All of this is available in ever-improving formats, mostly free, and in a way that fits your needs.

So you engage more in that field of interest, and you become part of communities and newsletters and fan pages, and you can go as deeply into that community as your energy, passion, and discipline allow you.

When I was learning the drums as a teenager, the difference in information between me and the non-drummer was two exercise books and one video tape. Now the difference is millions of videos, info graphics, tutorials, and courses, and if I go deep into that, the gap between me and the non-drummer is going to be much wider than it was back in the dark ages. Similarly, as a non-painter for example, the gap between me and painters is too big.

Each of us becomes more and more shaped by whatever industry or hobby we follow. It follows that each one of us is living in his / her own silo with widening gaps of knowledge and perspective between people from different fields.

The same applies to the social networks that we are part of. We are connected to the people we already know and work with, speaking the same languages and living in the same places, or simply working in the same industry. These people share information based on their values and habits, reinforcing the same perspective that we are already used to, making us more of who we already are. The more sharing and communication you do through these networks, the stronger the relationships, and more difficult it will become for you to break loose of those networks or simply obtain a new perspective.

The funny part is that we can each jump into a completely different world simply by choice, and pretty much any community is just one click away. The pressure will still come from existing networks, to respond to messages, updates and content shares, strengthening the already-existing networks, relationships, and systems.

A nice outcome could be that because we have more information that we can consume, we can satisfy a certain interest until we are bored of it or had enough. We are not stuck with a few books and some people in the neighborhood. We have a chance to see whether or not we are truly born to be in a certain field, or if it was just a strong but temporary interest.

Would all this lead to a state where search engines, apps, and social networks become so good at figuring out our needs and satisfying them that each one of us will go after what they are genetically predisposed to more than anything else? Kids are starting to use iPads before they can walk, and are probably drawn to the kinds of activities that their genes have a tendency toward. Maybe!

Why Creative Ad Executions are Not Necessarily Good Online

They are usually bad actually.

We still suffer from the thinking of offline advertising trying to force the limitations of print and outdoor on the flexibility and unboundedness of the online experience. They still think that the home page is the cover of the magazine, and waste a lot of money on that.

One of the main characteristics of online ads that offline people just don’t seem to understand is that the campaign doesn’t start and end with the ad itself like in the offline world.

In a magazine, on TV, or on a billboard, the ad is just a box or a full page that contains a message. It ends there. There is no such thing as a click. In the dark ages of offline advertising the only thing you tried to do is have a catchy message, something loud, and the main thing you could track was “message recall”. It’s ok if they don’t know what the brand was all about, because the model was so much sexier than the product, the important thing was that they recalled the brand and logo. Good job. Minus $100k. Now what?
Well, the most you can hope for, is that people would call if you have a number, or visit your store, if one is close by. Buying your product of course. Oh, and “branding”.

In the magical online world, we have something called the click. The person who is interested in knowing more about you, can click, and visit your site, your social media profile, view your videos, and spend endless hours researching you and interacting with you. Each person will choose the amount and type of interaction that suits them, and they can come back whenever they need you.

Your message doesn’t need to be loud, intrusive, and shocking to get people’s attention. If you target your message properly, and have something to say that resonates with that audience, enough people will click, and then you can give them a great experience on your site, after they have expressed interest in what you have to offer.

From a messaging perspective, it’s much more effective for them to see a fully branded page, with your domain, and trust-building elements, than it would be to run an intrusive takeover on a site where people are trying to do something else. When it is on your site, you can have an interactive page that does really interesting things and provide valuable information to your users, and you won’t have to be limited by the guidelines and limitations of whichever site you are running a takeover on. You have full control and freedom. Here is where you should be creative.

From a cost perspective, it is way more cost-effective to buy clicks to that creative page of yours, than it is to buy impressions with big limitations on what and how to deliver your message.

A good banner, video ad, or even a text ad are enough to get people to click, and once they have expressed interest in what you have to say, then and only then should you overwhelm them with your magic.

To Get New Customers, Focus on Your Current Ones

I find that building on current success is a very strong way to increase business or customers, and has many advantages over starting from scratch. While nothing is wrong in exploring new territories or markets, focusing on the current customers seems to be a much stronger and surer way to build your business.

Let’s first notice that a repeat customer is as good as a new one. If my client is working with me this month, and they decide to continue with me next month, it’s as good as getting a new client next month. Even better actually, because the trust has already been established, and the relationship is much more efficient than a new relationship that is just starting. So simply making sure that you are satisfying your current customers, ensures that they will continue with you in the future.

I also think that the best way to improve awareness of your brand is to focus on making sure existing customers are knowledgable and get used to utilizing more services or products that you provide. This will make sure that they rely more on you, know you more, and make switching even harder. In turn, this is another way of ensuring that they stay longer, possibly investing more and that’s again as good as new business.

From a logistics perspective, if you already have customers who buy your products, then you already have systems in place to talk to them, visit them, communicate through newsletters, and ship products. Since they already trust you it’s much easier for them to take a chance on something new, and it will cost you close to nothing to market to them.

The better you take care of your current customers the more likely they are to refer and recommend you to their friends. And when you are referred by someone who has dealt with you or bought your products and already trusts you, most of the hard work will have been done for you. The new client has the homework done for them, by someone they know and trust, someone who has gone through the process of living with your product or relying on your service. Now it’s mainly getting down to details and pricing.

Multi Channel (shm)Attribution (sh)Modeling

Traditionally, conversions are calculated and attributed to the “last click”, or the source of the visit that resulted in a conversion. The main problem in this model is that the user has probably had several previous interactions with your site / brand before deciding to come and buy something. These prior visits have somehow influenced the users to trust your brand, become more familiar with it, and come to the site to buy.

There are attempts to quantify and even assign a dollar value to each of those interactions. There are models of attribution, where there are different ways of giving weights and importance to each touch point. This is an exercise in futility and an impossible task.

Assuming that only previous online interactions have resulted in the purchase is one big fat error. People don’t only interact online, they can physically visit shops selling your product, they might see them in action with their friends, interact with your sales people, and a million other ways to get to know you more.

The way multi channel attribution seems to work is by measuring all the visits to the site, leading up to the purchase. This also misses an important point. People can interact with you online on a deep level without visiting your site, especially on social media, other blogs and sites, or maybe if your products are listed on a different independent site, where people get the real reviews.

So there is a huge amount of interaction happening offline that you will never be able to measure (at least not these days!), and there are many other online interactions that are not happening on your site that you cannot measure either.

Even if we come up with tracking methods that get us much closer to tracking as many interactions as possible, I still think we cannot get to attribute conversions to a a set of sources, especially when many are in play.

What if someone got completely convinced to buy a product by watching a great video presentation or documentary? How can you measure the effect of that? Even that same video that was the tipping point for many people, influenced them in different ways. Some people were convinced by minute three because they look at numbers and saw good financials at the beginning. Some people had to watch it until they saw human beings talk about using that product, and were convinced then. Good luck measuring that!

People use different devices and we are buying new devices as frequently as we are buying new clothes, another factor that complicates the equation even more.

The concept of attribution therefore is an impossible thing to achieve, not only because of technological limitations, but because the factors influencing buying decisions are numerous, complex, they interact with each other, include human emotions (quite complex), and people are different and react differently to a different combinations of touch points.