Trending & Timing (How do you know when a product will hit its tipping point?)

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers” – Thomas J. Watson (IBM president) in 1943

Its disputed whether Thomas J. Watson ever said those words or not. But everyone makes fun of him today for the quote (or misquote as the case may be)!

The thing people forget is – Thomas J. Watson was correct for about 10 years after 1943! If IBM would have invested heavily in computers in 1943, they would have gone bust!

But IBM smartly waited till 1950s and 1960s. And became the first big company to become bigger by riding the computers bandwagon at the right time!

So how do you find when is the right time?

Derek Sivers (of CDbaby fame) recently posted an awesome video on his blog:

Spend the 3 minutes and 6 seconds to watch the video. Its an awesome video because we rarely get to see a movement starting out and gaining momentum in a 3 minute time frame!

If you see the video – you’ll see that the dance movement could have gone bust at any point in its first 1 minute.

  • A single guy dances for 22 seconds (but we don’t know how long he had been dancing before someone began to shoot that video)
  • Second guy joins at 22 seconds
  • Third guy joins at 53 seconds
  • Two more guys join at 1 minute 12 seconds
  • Three more guys join at 1 minute 15 seconds
  • And then we lose count as everyone joins the bandwagon

Most things that trend follow a similar path.

  • Founders start.
  • Geeks join in. (By geeks I mean people who know everything there is to know about the field. They are the tinkerers.)
  • Then we see the early adopters.
  • And then we see a few mavens join in (people who don’t attract huge crowds but attract the people who have huge crowds.)
  • And then we see the influentials.
  • Finally we see the huge crowds.

Sadly – most products and movements don’t survive till they reach the maven stage. But if you had to bet money on it, you can say with good accuracy that a product will trend and succeed only after it reaches and gains traction at the maven stage!

If you really want to be right with your timing on new innovations – don’t be an early adopter (because you’ll get burnt more times than not). And don’t follow influentials (because everyone else will be following them too – and so you won’t have any edge.) But find the mavens of your field. And follow them.

That is the only way you can stay ahead of the curve – ahead of your competition in your field.

(Of course – if you’re an investor – you need to be one step ahead of the mavens. And mingle with geeks. But keep a sharp eye out because not every idea the geeks tinker with will succeed.)

Action Summary:

  • Find the mavens of your field. Heed the mavens.
  • Notice when a product or a movement cross over from the mavens to the influentials.
  • As soon as you notice that – jump on the bandwagon yourself. And be ahead of the crowd that is sure to follow.

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A few of my trending predictions based on following mavens in the IT field:

  • Shared hosting will be extinct. Cloud hosting will rule. Expect all the major hosts to jump over and invest in cloud hosting within the next couple of years.
  • Virtual currencies will become big and hot. Expect your favourite portal site or social networking site to come up with its own trading platform where you can earn and use a virtual currency. Facebook and Twitter apps will reward you with points which you’ll be able to redeem for real $$.

Which ideas do you think will trend soon?

Rewarding the Bottleneck for Efficiency

1. Rewarding Drunks To Create Efficiency

While I was in USA, I was working with a local non-profit who provides temporary housing and support to poverty ridden folks. And while doing research for them, I come across Seattle’s “1811 Eastlake Project.”

The project rewards the chronic drunkards of the city by giving them a rent-free place to live forever. The reasoning is: rehabilitating the worst drunks cost about $13,000 per year. But if these folks aren’t given free food and stay and taken care of, they end up costing $50,000 to the system per year on average… because of the staggering costs of the detox vans, emergency rooms, hospital fees, cop interventions, prison charges etc that each of them racks up.

Its a lot cheaper to have a drunk spend the night in a nice home than in an E.R. or in prison!

Even though I’m a big proponent of “everything that is rewarded – grows” – this issue made me realize that rewarding the bottlenecks is sometimes necessary to create better efficiency for everyone else.

2. Punishing a City & Killing Efficiency

Mumbai traffic is absolutely mad. Especially traveling to-and-fro from the suburbs to the city. It takes 40 minutes to cover a 8km distance during peak hours.

But there is no more space to create more roads on land to connect the suburbs to the city. So the government makes a bold plan to build a 2km sea-link from Worli to Bandra. This sea-link would cut down traveling time by 1 hour for everyone during peak traffic hours!

The “planning” shows that the 2km Sea-link would cost Rs 300 crore ($60 million) to build. Ah… the best laid plans!

The Worli fisherfolks oppose the building of the Sea-link. It would disturb their fishing. And because of their opposition, the Sea-link has to be extended from 2km to 5.6km and the height of the bridge has to be increased. The end result is: the Rs 300 crore bridge costs more than Rs 1,800 crore ($360 million) and is delayed by more than a year (add the opportunity cost of 120,000 cars driving 1 hour more than required everyday – for more than a year because of the delay!)

Wouldn’t it just have been better to allocate Rs 300 crore to the Worli fisherfolks to make it easy for them to adapt – instead of adapting the bridge to work around them and increasing the cost by 6 times? Yes many of them fishermen would be inconvenienced. Many would have to move. But paying a few lakh to each of them would have taken care of their grievances. And saved Mumbai $250-300 million and a year of crazy traffic!

How To Start Your Own Private URL Shortening & Redirection Service (And Why Is It a Rocking Idea)

I recently bought the domain name http://anke.sh for $72.80 per year. A .sh domain is 9 times more expensive than a .com domain. So why did I buy it?

  1. Because its a very short URL. 4 character .com domain names aren’t available anymore.
  2. The domain stands for my first name after all. So there is an inherent value to it.
  3. Which makes it a very valuable domain name to start my own private URL redirection service on.

But Why Start A URL Redirection Service?

Micro blogging is becoming popular. Service like Twitter have a 140 character limit for messages. So you can’t use long URLs. The longer the URL’s you share, the less text you can write promoting it – hence killing its virality.

I can use http://anke.sh as a URL shortening and redirecting domain for all the links that I share with folks via social media and micro-blogging networks!

But Why Not Just Use Free URL Shortening & Redirecting Services Like TinyURL.com or Bit.ly?

Two reasons for that:

  1. I’m promoting my own brand. Some of the folks who click through any of the redirected links – will be curious enough to visit http://anke.sh too (which is redirected to this post).
  2. But more importantly – I get to make a presence on the traffic logs and analytic tools of all the websites I promote!

Website analytics tools don’t show who is sending traffic to your website – if that traffic comes from social media sites. But by using my own URL redirection service, http://anke.sh will show up on the people’s analytics tools if I link to them.

And hopefully that will open up a few doors for me. It will mean folks opening my emails if I’ve promoted them before – because now they’ll know that I’ve promoted them before!

So… How Can You Start Your Own URL Shortening & Redirecting Service?

1. Find a short domain name using http://domai.nr/

2. Install WordPress on that domain
2a. Activate pretty permalinks.

3. Install the Redirection plugin
3a. Go to “Options”. In the auto-generate URL field, enter: http://doma.in/$hex$ (where doma.in is the short domain you’ve bought.)

Thats it. You’re all set. Now every time you come across a link you want to share, instead of using tinyurl or bit.ly – use your own domain name.

Tips While Creating Redirected URLs Using The Redirection Plugin

i. Leave the source empty and a random URL will be auto-generated. You could add an easy-to-remember keyword in the source field too – if you desire that.

ii. Once the redirected URL is made, click on it – and change its HTTP to “302 – Found” option. SEO experts tell me that only by having a 302 redirect will your domain name show up in their analytics logs.

4 Stages of Marriage (Or 4 Stages of Job Life Cycle)

“Wizard Academy faculty Jean Carpenter Backus says there are 4 stages of marriage:

  1. Infatuation
  2. Disillusionment
  3. Power Struggle
  4. True Love

People who have been married a long time always smile and agree.

It seems to me the same 4 stages occur in the average employee’s perception of their job.

Things usually work out if you can just hang on.

Hang on.”

Source: Monday Morning Memo’s Rabbit Hole

When Should You [email protected]#%ng Use Profanity

1. An Experiment of Banning Profanity

As some of you know – my Dad is into trading of diamonds. A diamond traders office is kind of like a stock brokers office. You get to hear a lot of profanity because of the stress that the deals bring with them.

So a couple of months back, my Dad made a rule in the office: anyone* who utters a profane word has to pay up Rs.100. The Rs.100 goes to charity.

*Anyone except my Dad. My Dad has to pay up Rs.500.

The result?

When you have to pay attention to a few of your words, you tend to pay attention to all of your words!

Brokers who come to the office now “think and talk”. Fewer arguments. More attentive folks. Better deals. Happy ending.

2. An Experiment of Using Profanity

Psychologists Cory Scherer and Brad Sagarin run an experiment. They gather a group of people and divide them into 2 groups. And make both the groups watch a 5 minute video of a persuasive speech.

For group A, the speaker uses a tame swear phrase “Damn it!” once during the speech. For group B, the speech is exactly the same, except the swear phrase is omitted.

Once the speech is over, participants are asked about their attitudes toward the topic addressed in the speech. The result? Folks in Group A rate the speaker as being more passionate than folks in Group B do. Folks in Group A also rate the video to be more persuasive overall than folks in Group B do!

Occassional obscenity persuades people!

3. So Should We Use Profanity Or Not?

  • I’ve been a big fan of the late Gary Halbert ever since I read his website. I recall the impact the dual instance of [email protected]#%ing profanity he used had on me. Made me perceive him as being a no-bs guy (which if you listen to a few guys in the know – wasn’t exactly true).
  • I also recall being in Buda, Texas – listening to Roy H. Williams speak. And he utters a single [email protected]#%ing obscene word to amplify a point. Makes the whole room nod and smile. And makes me realize that he is the best god darn speaker I’ve ever head.
  • And one of the few bloggers I follow – Naomi Dunford of IttyBiz – uses profanity like a drunk sailor – or like a smart strategist to distinguish herself from the drones in the over-crowded make-money niche.

But

  • On the other hand, the no-profanity rule in my Dad’s office also shows me how not using profanity helps create a better stress-free atmosphere.

So my verdict is…

Action Summary

  • Use profanity when people least expect it. Don’t use profanity if everyone uses it.
  • Yes: do what others don’t (expect you to do).

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Tony Hsieh’s Unified Happiness Theory

Tony Hsieh Unified Happiness Theory is not entirely settled. It involves establishing balance among four basic human needs:

  1. perceived progress,
  2. perceived control,
  3. relatedness,
  4. and a connection to a larger vision.

Source: The Zappos Way of Managing

Value of an Agent

Most people – including me – only evaluate 2 things while working with someone:

  1. Do they know their stuff?
  2. How much do they charge

But if you focus on only these 2 factors, you won’t find the best people out there. You’ll usually end up hiring the lowest cost service providers. And your projects will suffer.

To find the best folks out there, measure 4 factors. Not 2.

  1. Do they know their stuff?
  2. How quickly can they do their stuff?
  3. How many errors do they usually make?
  4. How much do they charge

Never make a money based decision without taking the time factor into consideration. Never hire someone without knowing how quick they can be.

Tagline Hack: How To Create Powerful Tag Lines in 7 Minutes

Nike has misguided thousands of entrepreneurs. “Just Do It” is the most popular tagline and has helped sell gazillions of tshirts. And so, when entrepreneurs sit down to create a tagline for their own venture, they think of creating something short and snappy like Nike’s Just Do It.

Big Mistake.

Why? Because you ought to realize that there are 2 kinds of tag lines:

Type 1: Money Makes The Tagline

These are the taglines that don’t mean anything on their own. The message is fluffy and unfocused. And it seeps into the associative memory of the masses only after millions of dollars have been spent in repeating the tag line over and over again.

Eg:

  • Have It Your Way (Burger King)
  • Just Do It (Nike)
  • Believe In Something Better (U.S. Cellular)

These are the taglines that are meaningless and interchangeable. Burger King could do just as well with “Believe in Something Better” too. These taglines are function-less (except for selling more t-shirts – HA!)

Type 2: Tagline Makes The Money

These are the taglines that are relevant to what the company is doing. These taglines convey a benefit. And are meaningful. They don’t make people go ho-hmm. These are the taglines that actually help a company position itself and carve out a bigger piece of the pie for themselves!

Eg:

  • When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight (Fedex)
  • The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand (M&Ms)

And the best one of all:

  • Fresh Hot Pizza in 30 Minutes or Its Free (Dominos)

In a minute, we will deconstruct Domino’s tagline and see how we can create similar taglines that work for our ventures. But before we do that, we need to know:

Whats The Purpose of a Tagline?

  1. To get your right people to say “Tell me more”
  2. To convey your USP (unique selling proposition) and distinguish yourself from the crowd

Definition of USP – by Rosser Reeves

  1. Each advertisement tagline must make a proposition to the consumer. Not just words, not just product puffery, not just show-window advertising. Each advertisement tagline must say to each reader: “Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.”
  2. The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer. It must be unique?either a uniqueness of the brand or a claim not otherwise made in that particular field of advertising.
  3. The proposition must be so strong that it can move the mass millions, i.e., pull over new customers to your product.

Ok – back to deconstructing the Dominos tagline.

Fresh hot pizza in 30 minutes or its free.

Dominos Does Three Things With Their Tag Lines:

  1. Tells us what they offer that is different than their competitors (fresh hot pizza in 30 minutes)
  2. Tells us how they take care of the downside (or its free)
  3. Tells us nothing else.

The 3rd rule is the most important one. People try to stuff a lot into a short tagline. Or they try to make it funny or cute. Or they try to add alliteration to it. Doesn’t work. Leave all that stuff away from the tagline.

The 2nd rule is important but optional. Not everyone can convey their risk reversal guarantees in the tagline itself. But if you can add it in your tagline, it becomes very powerful.

3 Questions To Ask Yourself:

  1. What do you offer?
  2. How is your offer different than others in the market?
  3. How do you take away peoples risk of taking you up on the offer?

Answer these 3 questions and the tagline should form automatically for you.

Once you have the answers down, all you now have to do is convey them in one short sentence.

Action Summary:

  • Don’t aim for cute or snappy for your taglines. If you don’t have the advertising muscle, you should not go for meaningless taglines.
  • Instead aim for adding your USP in your taglines.
  • Let your taglines simply convey what you offer and how you make people trust you by getting rid of their risks. Let your taglines convey nothing else.

Twitter Reading Habits

1.

Before the interwebs became popular, people read newspapers in 2 different ways.

  • 70% people read each and every word of the articles once they got past its headline.
  • 30% people scanned the articles. They didn’t read all the words – just picked up on the first sentence per paragraph to get the jist of it.

(Sharp readers will find that this 70:30 ratio is very close to the information gathering Sensing:iNtution ratios of the MBTI personality tests. Empirical tests show that 73% of people are Sensors and 27% are iNtuitive.)

2.

The interwebs changed peoples reading habits. The deluge of information is enormous. There is so much to read that people stopped reading complete sentences. Studies show that only 30% of people read all the words of an online article or a blog post. And 70% are scanners! We’ve seen a complete reversal of newspaper reading habits!

3.

People often ask me how do I keep up with 10,000+ Twitter followers!

Usually – these are one of the 50% of people on Twitter who read each and every tweet. (The other 50% on Twitter don’t read all the tweets.)

My answer to them is: I’m a scanner.

I don’t force myself to read everyones tweets. My intention with using Twitter is not to know what each and every person I follow is doing all the time. Rather, I use Twitter as a patterning tool. Any news that is hot and timely will be talked about and ReTweeted by more than one person. And so – even if I don’t read all the tweets, if the information is value worthy – I will get to read about it on Twitter (with very few exceptions)!

My prediction: the 50:50 ratio on Twitter of people reading all the tweets vs people scanning their tweets is going to change to about 30:70 too. Give a bit more time and we will only see about 30% of Twitterers reading all their tweets.? But this won’t mean the other 70% is missing out on much.

How To Be Indispensable

What Should You Do To Make Yourself Indispensable?

There are 4 factors that go into making you indispensable.

1. Make Your Own Ideas Obsolete

Apple has more than a 75% share of the MP3 players market. And no one has been able to challenge their iPods. The reason is simple: Apple does what their competitors ought to do. They make their own products obsolete.

First came the iPods. Then they reduced the size with iPod minis and iPod nanos. Then they added more space for music in the iPods. Then they came up with video iPods. Its been a constant re-invention process. And thats why no one has been able to challenge Apple’s dominance. Because Apple acts as its own competitor. And comes up with better products before others.

Peter Drucker spent more decades than anyone else in the world constantly re-inventing the principles of management.

Seth Godin is always on the cutting edge of marketing. He stays just slightly ahead of the curve.

You’ll never find someone retain their spot at the top of the pyramid if they don’t constantly innovate and make their own ideas obsolete.

2. Don’t be a Me-Too

Eons ago, there is a small town named Chelm somewhere in Europe. To bring order in the city, the people elect an impartial judge. One day, filled with rage, the town cobbler kills one of his customers.

The cobbler is bought up in front of the judge who sentences him to die by hanging. This is really bad news for the town. One townsman gains some courage to stand up and speak: “If Your Honor pleases, you have sentenced to death the town cobbler! He?s the only one we’ve got. If you hang him who will mend our shoes?”

“Who! Who?” cry all the other townsmen in Chelm together.

The judge thinks for a while, nods in agreement and reconsiders his verdict. “Good people of Chelm,” he says, “What you say is true. Since we have only one cobbler it would be a great wrong against the community to let him die. As there are two roofers in the town, let one of them be hanged instead!”

If you don’t distinguish yourself from others, you’ll be easily replaced.

So how do you distinguish yourself and stand out from amongst the crowd?

i. Do what others don’t. Be a contrarian. And distinguish yourself from the crowd.

ii. Polarize people. Don’t be a diplomat. Take a strong stand.

iii. Build your own USP.

iv. Don’t cover news. Because hundreds others will do the same. Instead analyze news. Give your opinion on the news.

v. Remember the peacock theory.

“Peacock theory is the idea that in order to attract the most desirable female of the species, it’s necessary to stand out in a flashy and colorful way. For humans… the equivalent of a flashy peacock tail is a shiny shirt, a garish hat, and jewelry that lights up in the dark?basically everything I’d dismissed my whole life as cheesy.” – Neil Strauss

Remember Dennis Rodman? For years, Dennis was a first class basketball player putting up impressive rebounding numbers on the scorecard. But he didn’t receive much publicity and hardly any endorsement contracts. That all changed when he coloured his hair red. By being bold and different, he instantly stood out from the rest of his mates. And made a fortune for himself endorsing products.

Dennis Rodman: Before & After - Hair Colour
Dennis Rodman: Before & After - Hair Colour

My favourite blogger – Havi is more noticeable because she has Selma the Duck as her sidekick!

3. Have a Voice Piece

Benjamin Franklin was the most popular person of his generation. Even today, his face is on the US $100 bill – even though he was never the President of USA (all other US bills have the face of past presidents on them). The reason? Its simple – Franklin understood the power of having a voice piece.

He published extensively. And ran his own newspaper. And because of his voice piece, his thoughts were heard louder than anyone elses!

  • Start a blog or a newsletter
  • Publish a book

4. Network. Network. Network

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

“If you’re the best in the world at what you do – but no one knows it, does it make a difference?”

Just like Location is the make-or-break point for a piece of real estate property, networking is the make-or-break point for making you indispensable. Unless other people know you and start spreading the word about your expertise, you’ll never become indispensable!

i. First rule of networking: help others before you need help yourself. What can you offer to others that will help them?

ii. Thanking people is the easiest way of networking.

iii. Learn a trick or two from Paris Hilton: Why is Paris Hilton so famous?

iv. Get the current industry experts to endorse you. The way to create a magnet is by rubbing iron against an already existing powerful magnet. You can become magnetic and attract more folks by simply getting other magnetic personalities to give their nod to you!

Action Map:

indispensable
Click picture to view an expanded chart.