In Case You Still Don’t Think Social Media is Important

The graph below caught my attention. This is the percentage of customers that fulfill three criteria:

  • They own and use multiple devices: tablet(s), PC(s), and smartphone(s)
  • They go online multiple times a day
  • They are online from multiple locations: work, home, commute, and travel.

These customers can potentially be reached at all times through multiple online channels, especially via mobile device. They might be researching your product quickly before requesting information (or not) or maybe they are following your company for the long term. Unless you have a stellar reputation and visibility in your market area, the overall impression is critical to keeping existing customers and gaining new ones. Take a look at your website on an iPhone or Android phone. Does it look the way you expect it to look? Are your emails formatted for mobile devices AND PCs? If not, your exposure is declining in all age groups except “Gen Z.” This doesn’t mean that social media is not important to the next generation, just that they are so used to being bombarded with social media marketing that special techniques are needed to reach this group. This is an advanced topic that will be covered in a future post.

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From The Verge: The Large Hadron Collider in Pictures

If you haven’t read the article on The Verge yet, it is worth the five minute read. The problem is that the pictures are so good that you will probably spend 20 minutes looking at those. My favorite quote from the article: “As James Gillies, head of CERN’s Communications Group explains, ‘we do basic, curiosity-driven research’ into the fundamentals of science and the universe.”

Something about the idea of spending almost $10 billion on “curiosity-driven research” is an amazing testament to the limitless potential of human imagination. The article can be found here (http://www.theverge.com/2013/6/19/4440730/large-hadron-collider-photo-essay). This is one picture from the article of the “Compact Muon Solenoid.” It weighs 12,500 tons, is 50ft in diameter, and 82ft in height. Somebody has a sense of humor!

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Apple and the “Customer Knows Best” Fallacy

So Apple had a big week this week. They announced the fall release of IOS 7, OS X 10.9 “Mavericks,” a new high end Mac Pro to be manufactured in the USA, a new MacBook Air with 8 hour battery life available now, and a streaming personalized radio service called iRadio. What has been in the news about Apple the past few months? Mostly comments like “Apple is boring,” “Apple can’t innovate,” “Apple losing control of its brand,” and so on. Apple can’t help but innovate and this was the result. So what was the news today? “Love and Hate for Apple’s New Mobile Software” (NY Times), “Apple designer Jony Ive’s iOS redesign mocked in new Tumblr blog” (LA Times), “Is Apple’s Beautiful iOS 7 Design Primed For Fall Crisis?” (Forbes), etc. There were positive headlines, but a quick search showed about 50 / 50 positive and negative. What is going on here? Does Apple have nowhere to go but down?

This is not just aimed at Apple. Microsoft is also in a challenging position at the moment. Windows 8 has not done well and the news has had quite a bit of negative press for it with articles like “Big hurdle facing Windows 8 tablet adoption” (ZDNet), “Windows 8 Adoption Hits New Low” (InformationWeek), and “How to Prepare for Windows 8 Even Though It’s Not Coming to Enterprises” (CIO). Customers screamed for a touch based operating system from Microsoft, they flocked to the iPad in the meantime, and once Windows 8 became available, they didn’t buy it.

Apple’s IOS competition, Google’s Android, is not immune. Apple pointed out the fragmentation in Android during their keynote and people might have said this was just Apple defending itself, but Business Insider recently published the same graph.

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This situation is actually a good example of the uncommon “customer knows best” fallacy. Yes, being responsive to customer and market conditions is critical to business success, but the customer doesn’t always know what the customer doesn’t know (see my post from May 24th). In that post, my suggestion was to ask great questions and really listen to the answers. That is still good advice, but there is always the exception to the rule. When you get to the level of companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google, hopefully you know the rules so well, you know when they can be broken. Even Steve Jobs said, “Customers don’t know what they want” but as a Forbes article (http://www.forbes.com/sites/chunkamui/2011/10/17/five-dangerous-lessons-to-learn-from-steve-jobs/) from 2011 explained “Without Jobs’ talents and the unparalleled creative team and processes that he built around himself, you won’t get away with doing no market research and not listening to your customers.”

Tomorrow we will get back to social media tools, but hopefully this brief digression helped you think about your customer “truisms” in a new light. There can be a place for taking a risky, intuitive chance with a new product, approach, or service outside your customers’ comfort zone, but only if you can stand the risk of failure and potentially the short term negative press. On the positive side, you could be the next “disruptive technology” in your industry.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Walter Simonsen, a wonderful comic book artist, posted this picture to his Facebook page with the caption “Suddenly, it all makes sense!”

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It made me think of a trite saying “You don’t know what you don’t know.” The first time I heard this was in a high level meeting with several aerospace engineers and a local salesperson. This was not good news at the time, but a great reminder to always take a moment to consider the aspects of a problem that I am not even aware of. It seems like a contradiction, if you don’t know what you don’t know, how can you even be aware of what you don’t know? One technique that has been useful is to calmly ask questions and actually listen to the answers. It is amazing how often customers, coworkers, and even competitors will drop hints and sometimes even just “spill the beans” about critical missing pieces of information. This technique can also provide insight into an entirely different ways of looking at a problem, a deeper order that might be present in a complex problem that simplifies and points the way to a solution. So the next time you “can’t get your head around a problem” take a moment to ask basic questions. The responses you get will definitely surprise you and might provide clues to an unexpected solution.

Leadership Lessons From the Dancing Guy

On May 17th, I reposed an article from Jason Kottke blog titled “Specialists” (http://kottke.org/13/05/the-three-types-of-specialist). He reposted an excerpt from Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard about the three types of specialists needed for the success of any revolution: the genius, the first follower who invests their reputation to validate the genius, and the explainer completes the trio and acts as an “evangelist.”

Later somebody pointed out that Derek Sivers, a revolutionary in his own right (sivers.org), posted a video three years ago that demonstrated this. Jason reposted this and called it “Leadership Lessons From the Dancing Guy” (http://kottke.org/13/05/leadership-lessons-from-the-dancing-guy). The video itself is on YouTube (http://youtu.be/fW8amMCVAJQ).

In a sense, these three, Vonnegut, Kottke, and Sivers explained the Specialists, then acted like them. They probably won’t create a movement since these events happened at different times, they travel in different worlds, and are each geniuses in their own right, but it was a special moment to have the explanation and demonstration come together in this way.

This got me thinking about niche technology businesses and typically how poorly they leverage their uniqueness. If they are surviving in their challenging marketplaces where customers, industries, and technologies are fragmented, they are probably doing something unique and interesting. A future post will give some examples of the ways these types of companies can “get the word out” about their uniqueness and use these types of messages to increase their sales and market awareness of their brands.