Magical Dwarves and Marketing a Product

I had a friend long ago that joked about how the laws of physics were the happy accidental result of the actions of many, many,  tiny, magical dwarves you can’t see. The theory has some merit. Quantum phenomenon are a sign of their sense of humor. It’s a cosmic wink and a nod. This was essentially my understanding of how sales were related to marketing as of 2008.

In a recent podcast, Rob Walling mentions that he doesn’t believe people with successful businesses actually thrive on “word of mouth” and that some other activity is actually responsible for their success. This is a connection that wasn’t cemented for me until I actually created a product I could sell online and went forward with the mindset that each sale would be a direct result of some marketing action by me. People won’t appear because your product or book is a better mousetrap. Your customers will only help promote it if there is some compelling reason to do so.

Traffic is a result of my SEO, content, guest posts, blog comments, and podcast appearances. Aggregate traffic is what enters the “funnel”. If you have high quality traffic, the people already know a bit about you or your product and are primed to buy or sign up. My first month of traffic into the funnel for my book converted to sale at 26.7%. About another 22% signed up for the email list by requesting a free sample. As I understand it, that is pretty spectacular and bound to decline.

I can see the decline coming. My analytics reports that I have a lot of organic traffic spinning up from a content campaign on my book site, but it isn’t converting very well. My copy isn’t that great and some of the keywords are going to pull traffic from outside my niche audience.

The conversion numbers aren’t the point. The point is seeing the world in a new way. I knew how it worked before, but I didn’t grok it. I started seeing all content as someone working a sales angle a while back. It doesn’t bother me (but a younger me is angry about it). People create great content because it gets attention and attention drives sales. Without the sales, there is no reason to create the great content. Churchill’s quote about democracy comes to mind.

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
Sir Winston Churchill, Hansard, November 11, 1947.

Physics and calculus changed the way I viewed physical phenomenon around me. Selling a product online has changed the way I view marketing, commerce, and sales.

Teton Crest Trail

Death CanyonThis post is a complete departure from the primary substance of this blog, but it’s my blog and primary substance is in the works. This is about a backpacking trip I took in the late summer. There wasn’t a lot of specific information when I was searching to plan my trip so I decided to throw in the pieces I thought were important. Let Google sort it out.

From 13 September 2012 to 17 September 2012 my good friend Brian and I backpacked around 40 miles of the Teton Crest Trail. Any good pictures are purely accidental.

I did a lot of research for the trip before settling on a route and the dates. Since I’m a good ol’ Southern boy I chose September because there isn’t any need for an ice axe in the mountain passes. In hindsight, I think I should’ve done a mountaineering school and made the trip when the flowers were in bloom and snow was still around. Mountaineering school is now on the agenda. I’d be happy to entertain recommendations.

If you’re planning a trip to the Tetons I would highly recommend the path we took. We started at Death Canyon Trailhead and camped at the end of the Death Canyon Zone (map). We then went over Death Canyon Shelf and camped in Alaska Basin near the Mirror Lakes. The next morning we went over Hurricane Pass and through South Fork Cascade to camp in the second site in North Fork Cascade. The last day we eschewed camping the final night at Holly Lake and made the trek over Paintbrush Divide and out to String Lake in one go. From what I can tell, many regular hikers of the area recommend this route and I do as well. The photos I linked to include many of the signs we encountered and try to give you a sense of the scenery and hiking required by the route.Grand Teton from Hurricane Pass

If I were going to pick one place to absolutely see in Grand Teton National Park, it would have to be the walk from Hurricane Pass through South Fork Cascade Canyon. It would be an epic out and back day hike, but I’ve been to many a scenic mountain vista and this was completely spectacular.Death Canyon Shelf

We saw elk, deer, marmot, and approximately 137,048 chipmunks. We were spooked by a black bear near the confluence of the trails between North Fork, South Fork, and Cascade Canyon. He was standing right on the trail. Right between us and our campsite about 1 mile down the same trail. Good times. Sleep came so easily that night.

You should buy bear spray. We didn’t. We hiked during a “bear activity advisory” where you shouldn’t travel in groups smaller than three or be without bear spray. We didn’t do that. It’s probably better to listen, but don’t let spray (or even a gun — which isn’t allowed in the backcountry) give you a false sense of security. That bear was no more than 30 feet down the trail when we could see him. Being effective in that situation with spray (were the bear more alert and angry) would require practice and a very easily accessible storage location.

Water was never a problem. We both used filters and valves that allowed us to pump directly into our CamelBak reservoirs and water bottles. Even in the driest month of the year, water was plentiful. I don’t see any reason to carry more than a gallon at any time.

One final note for anyone without a lot of snow/ice hiking experience is that despite the claims of the pass status page there was still a scramble across 20-30 feet of ice at a steep angle on the descent from Paintbrush Divide. Brian and I are both pretty fit, but we’re also big and we had 60 lbs + in our packs for an extended backcountry stay. Neither of us use trek poles, but I can see the value from that particular experience. Most of the locals and day hikers seemed unbothered by the scramble, but I feel like anyone planning a trip through Paintbrush should be aware.

Grand Teton
From 2nd campsite on big table rock in North Fork Cascade Canyon 15 Sept 2012 near sunset.

Don’t waste time in bad conversations

Ever feel stuck in a customer conversation that is going nowhere? Let’s fix that.
Check yourself
The first thing to consider is whether or not this conversation is really a drag because there is no mutual exchange of value to be had or if you’re just checked out. Moms and third grade teachers everywhere were right, attitude is extremely important. It will color how you view conversations, people, and events. The world is a more interesting place if you can adopt a positive attitude about what others might have to offer. You can meet really interesting people in the most unexpected places. I recently made friends with a national sales director for an outdoor company merely by being friendly on a flight that sat us next to each other. One of the guys I cold emailed for Whitetail Scout turned out to be a prolific tycoon that built a railroad company in Brazil, had an Ivy League background, and just happened to be in the deer business as an amusement in retirement. He also lived within an hour’s drive. That is just shy of next door in Texas. If you have a lot of people that want to talk to you (good for you) you should try especially hard here. At some point you were on the less important/famous side of those interactions. The golden rule still applies.
Stay polite
You never know when the tables might turn, your business might pivot, or an uninteresting prospect becomes the perfect prospect. I recently heard someone give the advice that you should never be mean to anyone. There is no good that can come of it. I tend to agree. Be nice. Stay classy. It makes you more likable and more marketable.
So, what do you do to politely exit a conversation that is dead on arrival through no fault of your preparation or attitude?
Schedule things with an out
One tactic to get out of bad conversations is to schedule anything that has risk into a tight window. Make 15 minute appointments. Schedule it a few minutes before another meeting, lunch, or the end of the day. This gives you two outs. One is the obvious maximum time commitment cap. The other out is to be able to say, “Wow, there is more here to X than we can cover in Y minutes…” The next sentence might be “Let’s reschedule some time to handle that later. Did you have any other brief topics to address?” or “…so let’s focus on <other subject> for the time we have left.”
I don’t tend to offer to reschedule conversations I don’t want to have, but often changing the subject is enough to save the conversation. I wouldn’t lie to anyone about follow-up. Pick an approach that fits the situation.
Stay in the driver’s seat
My advisor for my PhD work was a young professor that came to our department while I was there. The introductory training for professors taught them this tactic to avoid time-wasting conversations. The primary aim for the professors is to control physical conversations and the main tactic is to stand in the doorway to your office. You lose control if the students walk in and sit.
The tele-equivalent here is to be prepared with a list of questions and keep in control of the conversation. Ask questions that target only what you are interested in and don’t be afraid to gently direct people back to the primary line of questioning, “…that is a great story. How did it figure in to <problem> in your business?”
You aren’t the only beautiful and unique snowflake
If you think the prospect has nothing left to offer you, then close the interview. There is no reason you need to ask every question to every prospect. In fact, you should order your script to qualify leads as quickly as possible. When you find someone you can’t help, be honest. “Oh, you guys use X for distribution? I’m afraid that we can only support Y at the moment. Can I follow-up with you as we add that feature?” They don’t want to waste time either. Most conversations are mutually unsatisfying once they are broken.
If you use these tactics together, I bet you won’t find yourself in many useless conversations. If you do, you should improve the quality of your leads and list generation.

Cold Email that Gets Answered

An excerpt from my cold calling book

Subjects

All most people will see is the ‘To:’ and ‘Subject:’ lines. Make them good.

Your subject should be terse and free of useless words. Be specific and summarize the email. If the email includes a deadline or a date, then put it in the subject. You can use subjects to interest the reader but not to create the promise of things that are not there. Much of the advice about writing a good headline also applies here.

If you have something to sell, you should use the headline to make a value offer that they find interesting. If you just want to talk to them, you can do the same if you have an offer to make. If there isn’t a value offer or resource you have fewer options. I usually go with honesty in the best light I can.

If I want to talk to dentists about problems in the dental industry I’m going to research enough to write a specific headline that shows I’ve done the homework. I may try a few different specifics in the subjects I send out and figure out which ones strike a chord with people. You won’t get statistically significant data, but you can pick up on how they react. Repeat what works and continue to experiment.

Start a blog: Interview <Business Name> for <Blog Name>

The blog might be a place to feature businesses or a collection of posts about how businesses in the industry handle best practices.

Write a report: 7 Ways to Improve X in <business>

Be honest and specific: Chat about handling <problem> in <business>

Name drop: Jackie Brown said to ask you about <topic>

Don’t start the conversation with a bad subject.

Lazy: talk about problems in your business

Bad blind sales: Dentistry Practice Software

Feels false: Double your business today!

Follow up like Gravity

I had a physics professor in college that started every class by pushing everything on the table in front of the chalkboard off the far edge. He usually did it all in a rush. After the clattering science equipment settled, he would say, “Still works. Gravity is relentless.” Email requires that you are relentless. You should do so at 7-10 days without a response and then every thirty days after that. Use followup.cc, boomerang, or similar tools to help keep you on schedule. The prospects might get annoyed in the first couple months, but they get over it. You will get some respect for tenacity and you might catch them when they have a free moment. The cold email game is a battle for hitting the inbox at a time when you can get a response. If an email is more than a couple days old, the chances are that it won’t get attention. You can use major mailing list service providers like Aweber or Mailchimp to see your own email statistics, I have included some common rates for a few industries in a table below.

Type of Company Open Rate Click Rate
Business and Finance 15.47% 2.77%
Software and Web App 15.57% 2.49%
Retail 17.80% 2.41%

 

 

 

Data from MailChimp:

http://mailchimp.com/resources/research/email-marketing-benchmarks-by-industry/

 

If you enjoyed this excerpt, you should check out the cold calling book.

How to Pick a Business Idea

Ideas are not worth much. Software is not worth much. Blogs are not worth much. Don’t get emotional about the idea vetting process. You shouldn’t include any ideas that sound miserable on your list, but you shouldn’t jump at an idea because it feels exciting and fun. That feeling usually wears off.

The following is my idea funnel. If an idea passes each of these tests, you have a worthy pursuit. You can then sort those ideas by your priorities and answers to questions like, “Which has the most profit potential viagra generika kaufen schweiz?” or “Which can I get started the quickest?”

You like the technology

Ignore this step if you plan to outsource the technology.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean it is a technical challenge. This is just a check that you are happy working with the best technology stack available to solve the problems you have to. Bingo Card Creator is not an incredible achievement of software, but A/Bingo is a pretty nice, reusable piece of software built on a stack that most people can get excited about (Rails). BCC spawned A/Bingo and other interesting pieces of automation and optimization. Don’t forget about those pieces.

You like the business challenge

The business challenge of BCC is much larger than creating a web-based random number generator. If you don’t want to optimize selling to teachers, don’t create a product for them. If you don’t like SEM, don’t pick an idea that leaves you without any other avenues to customers. Likewise, don’t put yourself in a market where high-touch sales and in-person time is required if you don’t want that to be a part of your life.

You like the people in the market

If you hate war, weapons, and consider it all a waste I would strongly suggest that you should avoid creating products for the defense industry. Find an industry that interests you. Don’t create software for hunters if you are morally opposed to killing animals. Don’t create software for hunters if you think they’re all slack-jawed yokels. It’s not going to work.

You have access to people in the market

SEM, SEO, phone calls, emails, conventions, meetups, local media, Facebook, Twitter, friends, podcasts, YouTube, iTunes, Joint Ventures, direct mail, LinkedIn, forums, community sites, newsgroups

Find a repeatable way to connect to the market and get customers. Pick a market and channel that you enjoy. I haven’t logged into Facebook in three years or more. I won’t be starting a Facebook app business. Keep in mind that this step will require some research. Those channels will reach people, but it might not be best if you start out with the plan to be #1 on Google for ‘project management software’ quickly and with a limited budget. This is a place where competition should figure into your reckoning.

You can solve a problem in the market

Talk to the people in your market and discover their largest problems (See: Lean Startup, Steve Blank, Eric Ries). Determine if you can solve those problems.

Can you do it profitably? Is the technology workable? What would it cost? What is the marketing cost? What is the best channel? What is your expected conversion rate? How long until you can make a sale? Etc.

Most of those questions are not answerable. Not without a lot more information than you have or can collect reasonably, but you can still give them some thought and make estimates. Risk can (probably) be thoughtfully minimized.

The people in the market that you have access to have money

Teachers don’t have money (for the purposes of this discussion). Make sure your market has money. Look a government statistics. Look at magazines. Look at SEM on keywords in your niche. Are people making money from this market? What is the pricing like? Does that support your lifestyle? What does the support burden look like? (Hint: higher prices often come attached to better customers for startups)

Those people will buy from you

Hunters do have money, but they usually want gadgets they can use this year. Very few of them want software that helps them potentially improve the quality of the deer herd using time and resource intensive methods that their neighbors can spoil. Hunters wouldn’t buy Whitetail Scout even if all of the above was true for me.

Hunt Clubs will pay for exactly that to attract more and better hunters and to improve things for their kids, etc. Most hunters are conservationists at heart.

Make sure you are targeting the right buyer with your offering, then test them out for a purchase. Whether you make a webpage that asks them to click a ‘Buy Now’ button or you ask for money in person during interviews, just make sure you ask. If you’re not excited with some pre-sales in hand, you should pick another idea…now.

What now?

You need to talk to customers and test your hypotheses about the market and the idea. If you started this process with an actual idea for a product and didn’t talk to customers for step 5 then you need to go back and do remedial work to validate that the idea is a real problem for the customers.

If you enjoyed this post, you should get your free tips on cold calling your customers.

MicroConf 2012

It was a great event. If you want to learn more about bootstrapping a business or meet people trying to do so, there is no better place to go. Thanks to Mike and Rob.  I’ll try to summarize the key ideas that resonated for me after listening to the speakers and chatting with numerous other entrepreneurs at the conference.

Honesty

Jason Cohen gave the lead off talk and he spoke about how honesty can make you more money. It was a really good exploration of truth in marketing and support. It seemed to spawn a majority of the initial discussions for the rest of the conference. Did he mean complete honesty? Were there exceptions? Who would actually do it? I think he makes a convincing argument for using honesty as an advantage. Especially where it can grant you credibility. Admit something negative to lend credence to your positives.

Customers, Customers, Customers: Who are they?

Hiten Shah was the first to ask this question. Who are your customers? How much do you know about them? What problems do they have? What keeps them up at night? Who do they buy from? What do they pay? Who are their competitors? Who are their customers? Hiten emphasized again this year that speed of customer learning will determine your success.

Where are they?

This came up in a lot of talks. Hiten was first, but Amy Hoy, Patrick McKenzie, and Dan Martell definitely all discussed it. Find them online and off. Learn from them. Build channels to educate and sell to them. Or…

OPN

Find “Other People’s Networks” to leverage. YouTube, iTunes, Twitter, Quora, Forums, etc. Discover where your customers hangout and be there.

Actions as Data

Your customer’s actions speak more loudly than their words. Spend time observing their actions with your product, but also with each other. You should absolutely use customer development interviews, but understand that no matter the methodology: people will lie or unknowingly misrepresent answers to these questions as often as not. This is borne out by research. Collect all the hard data you can.

Failure Required

There were moments in quite a few talks where the speakers talked about a failure or riding a roller coaster of emotions on the entrepreneurial trip. It isn’t always fun or fulfilling. You’re never sure about the next move. Each time things don’t work you are reminded of the opportunity to give up. Failure and experience are the best teachers. You can learn to accept failing as part of the process. In this business, your success depends upon frequent failure.

Revenue or Cost

Improve revenue or cut costs for your customer. Build your messaging around the benefits of your product that do this.

Process and Systems

I enjoyed this theme the most. It is best summarized by a quote that Patrick McKenzie shared:

A job is a system that turns time into money. A business is a system that turns systems into money.

Mike Taber spoke about it at length as well. Peldi and Bill Bither both mentioned using the best development talent they had to work on business systems and not the product. Sarah Hatter talked about systems for interacting with customers to deliver great support. Automate things. Improve the experience. Use checklists. Use metrics. Build visual dashboards. Prioritize problems. Document your process. The quality of your systems will distinguish your from your competition.

Impermanence

Patrick McKenzie and Sarah Hatter addressed this directly in their talks. Patrick mentioned a Japanese word that means ‘an awareness of the impermanence of things’ in reference to work and money. He wanted everyone to make sure they spent time on the things in life that bring them meaning and the things that last. There was a running joke for the speakers to include a picture of their kids that connected up strongly here. These people have real lives. Sarah said (paraphrasing) that you shouldn’t take business advice given by people that don’t have a life. I think that is wise.

Conclusion

The talks were all excellent this year. The speakers were extremely accessible and engaging. The attendee quality was very high. The venue improved. I’d say I’ll see you at MicroConf 2013, but I’m concerned it will sell out too fast to guarantee.

Relationships, Transactions, and Pricing

Recently, Jason Cohen featured two blog posts about pricing. Sacha Greif talked about how his research and thinking yielded a low price with high volume approach. Jarrod Drysdale rebutted with a tale of a high price and low volume strategy where he made more money. Amy Hoy got involved in the discussion both on HN and Jason’s  blog. She and Jarrod championed the high price model. It’s a good model. And she is correct in her assertion that higher prices make it more likely that you can continue to provide an exceptional service level to each customer. Sacha maintained that you could make money and address a wider audience with a lower price.

I recently read Bargaining for Advantage and it’s got me thinking about how to view these decisions in life and in business. There is a section in the book that outlines several types of situations where people engage in bargaining. One of the key factors in how he suggests you should bargain is based on whether or not you expect to have a continued relationship with the other party or if it is simply a transaction levitra generika preis. Groceries are usually a transaction. Even most cars and houses, but most business interactions are best viewed as a relationship.

Relationships mean that you might not bargain as hard and you’d let the people on the other side of the table know it. Relationships mean creating more value than you capture. Relationships mean understanding the other side of the table and what goals they have not only for this deal, but also in life. Relationships are what build careers, reputations, and (I think often) wealth.

It’s easy to see most decisions, moments, and interactions in life as transactions. Walking by someone who drops things in the park. Seeing a neighbor struggling to load a truck. Passing by a forum post or email with a question you can answer. These aren’t transactions in a business sense, but even in helping out you can treat it like the beginning of a relationship or a momentary hassle. Relationships don’t scale. They can’t. And that is why they’re special.

In the end, I think there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Amy’s method allows you freedom to pour a lot of attention into a faithful few. I’m sure that can forge powerful relationships. Sacha’s method of selling for less is relational in a different way. I think people understand the value in his offering and it builds the bridge to start a relationship down the road across a wider audience (similar to Customer Perceived Value). You can’t always start with marriage and million dollar deals. Sometimes it helps to start slow. The level of “know, like, and trust” required to make a $3.99 sale is different than a $3,999.00 sale.

Ultimately, the approach to pricing depends on where you are and where you want to be.  The money won’t make you happy. Relationships can help with the money and the happiness. Pick the one that works for you.

How to be a Lean Startup Idea Assassin

I’m going to tell the story of a new product idea from conception to death. I know that my first year or two of trying to vet ideas was a scary process to navigate. I felt like I was in a race car with an opaque windscreen and a vague impression that I needed to turn, but I never knew which direction or when. The uncertainty still plagues me, but I have developed some processes to deal with it. I’ve also learned that it’s more like a bumper car than a race car in most scenarios. It might be embarrassing or below expectations to crash, but there is little chance it will be fatal. It is also quite common to crash and you never get going quite as fast as you’d like.

In September 2011 I created a small piece of code for a friend that allowed them to use Wufoo as a platform for graded quizzes. Before creating the project I investigated which form platforms had an API that I could leverage and as part of that I asked a few questions of someone at Wufoo support. I followed up with the completed project to the Wufoo contact in case it would interest them. That small thing allowed me to turn my README for the project into a blog post on the Wufoo blog.

The blog post generated some inbound interest, but I didn’t start taking the idea very seriously until some of the interest turned into consulting opportunities.  I figured a few consulting clients, a blog post, and some additional interest from the friend that started everything warranted more investigation. So, naturally, I made a few customer development phone calls to get more insight into people that wanted to solve this problem. I was able to isolate two interested segments: online education and marketing.

I was able to get a collection of people in marketing to be moderately interested, but it seemed like education was the real player. I spoke with about 25 people over and above the 10 or so that had already come my way. I got really excited at this point and started to move things forward on multiple fronts. The consulting deals were done in such a way that I could keep the code open sourced and use it for any purpose down the line. I knew that I had wasted time on the technical side before when I should’ve started with marketing so I jumped in on the marketing side.

Education Landing Page
The language and benefits were carefully extracted from many conversations, but I don’t think I’m good at this yet.

I created a landing page. I used my contacts in the market to generate ideas for benefits and features. I iterated on the design and content with some trusted friends and advisors in the startup space. I bought a domain, picked a name, and did some quick and dirty keyword research.

oDesk Costs
oDesk Contracting

I enlisted some outsourced marketing help on oDesk. I had people tracking down competitors, keywords, blogs, hangouts, and the best content online in this market. That set me back a few dollars, but I was excited about my marketing approach. I had a demo that included a graded quiz and captured email addresses! It was whiz bang cool. I started planning out the future and wrote a 10+ page marketing plan. I had paying clients and interested potential customers.

I decided to drive some traffic to the landing page to build a huge mailing list for my mega launch event. To drive traffic right away I turned to Facebook Ads where I figured I could effectively target young, web-savvy, educators. I also used BuySellAds paid tweets and I linked the landing page from my blog. I was banking on 10% conversion, but if it was a little lower I was willing to retarget and try some new things.

I managed to convert 0% of the traffic. I spoke with a few advisors about the idea and the process I had used in depth. Everyone agreed that there was something to the idea whether it was lead generation or a simplified Learning Management System (LMS), but we also all agreed that it wasn’t quite there. The idea wasn’t fully formed. The traffic wasn’t converting. The test didn’t succeed. I’m not great at copy or paid search ads. I do think these networks have tremendous value, but I did not connect on this idea.

Facebook Ads
My Facebook Ads
BSA Tweet Stats
My BuySellAds Paid Tweets

 

Landing Page Goals
What I wanted to see

I recently heard Noah Kagan speak and one of the best things in his talk was to set specific, challenging goals for tests and simply walk away when your expectations aren’t met. I walked away.

I was sad to see an idea that I was so emotionally attached to go by the wayside, but you can’t make emotional decisions about which product ideas are worth pursuit. You make data-driven business decisions after you talk to customers, do market research, and test the idea by exposure. This is not something I could have done a few years ago.

landing page stats
What I saw
landing page stats two
More of what I saw

I try to pursue things that will leave me better off when it’s all said and done whether it meets my loftiest ambitions or it crashes ignominiously. I think this project meets that criteria well. I got the blog post. I tested another idea in depth and I’m getting faster, more decisive, and (I hope) more effective at it. I learned some new tricks for marketing, I wrote a great marketing plan that I can use as a template, I experimented extensively with outsourcing, I worked from the market side first, and I solidified my process of vetting an idea.

I learned some great skills and a valuable lesson about getting too excited about an idea too early. I thought I already met that lesson, but here it is again.  I spent $150 or so, and I saved months or years of chasing an idea that I can’t sell online with my resources and contacts. This is a key distinction. Someone may be able to execute on this idea. Maybe my failure is more due to my lacking copy or SEM skills than the idea itself. Perhaps I missed the number one benefit. In any case, I gave it my best shot and I know that this one isn’t for me.

My daughter taught me to fail more.

Gwen and Thomas at Ladybird Johnson WIldflower Center
Gwen and Thomas

I’ve been watching my daughter grow up for almost two years now and recently she led me to an epiphany. I should fail more and I should do it at many things. I was watching her run around the park a few days ago and I was struck by the way she moved around. Every rock, bump, and obstacle was a challenge waiting to be attacked in a haphazard order. If she fell down, she got up and tried again. In the face of persistent and certain failure she asks for help, but she will give just about anything a go before asking.

What would the world look like if everyone took on life like this? We’d all be a bit more fit I suppose. But, we would also never stop trying new things. We wouldn’t care if people saw us fall down and in part we would not care because we would be too busy trying again.

The world is pretty big to a two year old child, but she doesn’t see it as daunting or intimidating. She doesn’t studiously avoid the playground equipment she isn’t adept on. Everything is a quiet challenge.

I’m off to pickup the gauntlet. Kindly look the other way when I’m picking myself up. Life is too short to live it all walking carefully.

You Can’t Replace Experience With Methodology

I have spent a lot of time reading books, articles, and blogs all about business, marketing, and startups. I don’t think it was wasted, but I don’t think it really prepares you to do much either. I think I’m better prepared to see mistakes coming for others, but I find that I tend to justify why my situation is different before learning the hard way that it is most certainly not.

I don’t think this is a bad thing. Experience is a superlative instructor. ( It reminds me of the Stanford Machine Learning course introduction to neural networks. The brain only has one really versatile learning algorithm and experience is the input. ) I expected the recent ‘You’re Overthinking It‘ article to be more along these lines. An exhortation to do more stuff, but it was not to be.

Do more stuff! Lean process emphasizes shortening the iteration cycle in order to speed up product development. Faster development with customers driving the process just might yield a profitable business before you run out of cash or motivation. I’m actively combining this simple and widely applied insight with another related one, “Practice makes perfect.” ( Boy, was Solomon right: There is nothing new under the sun. )

I’m thinking a little less about doing the perfect thing at the perfect time. I’m trying to build a large quantity of short, fast iterations in each area I want to improve. I have started adding small projects that let me get those experiences with less commitment and more focus. This is all one reason why I support Rob’s thinking behind acquisition. I’m planning to do a bit of that on a small scale myself. It’s a (hopefully?) great way to get instant reps.

A Defense of Reading

I know there are a lot of techniques I’ve learned through reading that gave me the chance to go out and get key experience. I think the mental models that analysis and synthesis of different perspectives develops can help me a lot. Even if that help is only deeper understanding after (re-)learning a hard lesson. I also think that connecting to these things motivates me. It makes me put on my startup/business/developer/marketer hat and act accordingly. That is useful to me on a long day, but I’ve got to balance reading with doing. Doing is the only one that really puts me closer to my goals.