Try this mindset with your customers

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Treat all of your quotidien client conversations as if they major interactions — like deal making, or other high-stakes activity.

In my meetings with clients, I ask myself: how can we reaffirm the value proposition of the relationship? How can we teach and gather feedback and nudge go/no-go decisions in the moment?

Also, it helps to keep a shared open questions list — that you can revisit in every check-in, with the default questions being: what are the next steps to helping make that decision? When do you think we can do that?

What defines competence in your company?

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Above is what every journalist (and, really, every single one of us) should know about. (Poynter defines each square here.)

How do you define competence?

Prepare to pare: Why you should do fewer things better with your product

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“The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.” ― Pablo Picasso

Less is more, and all that, and it’s hitting the app world. 

A mobile app or website that serves all your traditional content to a general audience is a fine first step, but only a first step

Quixotic companies (Facebook, Foursquare, and Google), are learning that their communities often demand less, or something altogether different.

Facebook launched Places for checkins, but location-tagged photos and status updates have proven more popular. Foursquare discovered that members wanted to use it for Yelp-style discovery of local places rather than sharing where they are. 

The “great unbundling" is upon us. Prepare to pare.

McKinsey Interviews Eric Ries

And I agree.

Companies are all too aware of the disruptive power of technology. In this video interview, the author of The Lean Startup argues that the competitive reaction of many organizations remains fatally flawed. more

What is community?

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For some reason, I can’t leave the topic of in-real-life social networks alone. Work communities, local business as a cultural locus point, and loose tie investor groups are just a few.

Our communities can be local, professional, commercial, or anything really, and they undergird who we are and how we do what we do. It’s the connections that count, baby!

Naturally, I was drawn to the four foundations of community, which coalesced in a landmark article published David McMillan and David Chavis in 1986. Here they are in brief (though I recommend a deeper reading):

1) Membership

2) Influence

3) Integration and fulfilment of needs

4) Shared emotional connections

And for some people, it’s caffeination too. 

Pic: Formerly the fabulous Forty Weight Coffee shop 

When was the last time you reviewed your credit report?

I recognize that credit scores are a dubious measure of financial viability because they encourage people to carry debt, but they remain a necessary evil until Bitcoin upends our current financial system. 

The controller at my new co (a personal financial management software company) had this smart recommendation about staying on top of your credit score: 

  • We all know we are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.

  • The trick is to order one every four months on a rolling basis so that you’re monitoring at least three times per year.  

  • Because spouse information is normally reported on both credit reports, you can review more often with the following married persons schedule. This allows you to review every two months for possible errors and/or identity theft. 

  • You can order from all 3 agencies online at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action

How to be a more human company online

Pretty soon we’ll all lose our jobs to robots — and they’ll not only be smarter and more productive, but have stronger moral underpinnings than humans, à la Isaac Asimov (rambling essay on the topic: here).

Anyway, in the context of now and social media, we ourselves have become too robotic, less human. 

Our digital strategies tend to focus on broadcasting commercial messages and advertising, while the social media platforms and apps we strive to create are centered on developing and improving relationships. Time to get realigned. 

Consider adopting these three aims for your app/platform:

1) reduce costs/increase customers’ willingness to pay (by showing value),

2) help people establish or strengthen relationships,

3) generate a value-proposition wherein the customer does work on the firm’s behalf (to the benefit of both). 

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Source: “Social Strategies that Work”, HBR

4) Finally, develop a method of communication that is sustained and meaningful in people’s lives. Here’s how some big brands did it:

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Source: “Use of Social Media by Companies to Reach their Customers”, SIES Journal of Management, March 2012

Habit shared by St. Vincent, Einstein & Obama

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"Get back to your stare. I care, but I don’t care." - St. VincentYeah. 

Petra Collins’s gorgeous snaps of St. Vincent (my style icon!) for New York Mag reveal her simple gray/black/wool/leather understated cool, and there’s so much more to love.

For example: she rocked 930 Club. On a Sunday.

Also, for example: her style icon is Albert Einstein: “When he was working on any project, he would have a uniform so he could conserve his brain energy. I do the same thing on tour.”

Einstein/St. Vincent, you are not alone; Obama does this to reduce decision overload too.

Turns out that cutting down on the number of small but strenuous decisions in your day to day makes you better at deciding/doing more important things. Like creating this, if you’re St. Vincent. 

Good process > analysis

An honest approach, considering all viewpoints and analysis, and keeping a decision journal, lead to better decision outcomes. 

"Whenever you’re making a consequential decision either individually or as part of a group you take a moment and write down:

  1. The situation or context;
  2. The problem statement or frame;
  3. The variables that govern the situation;
  4. The complications or complexity as you see it;
  5. Alternatives that were seriously considered and why they were not chosen; (think: the work required to have an opinion).
  6. A paragraph explaining the range of outcomes
  7. A paragraph explaining what you expect to happen and, importantly, the reasoning and actual probabilities you assign to each. (The degree of confidence matters, a lot.)
  8. Time of day the decision was made and how you feel physically and mentally (if you’re tired, for example, write it down.)”

Image: A Mandelbrot set. 

Designed by Apple - Intention

JAR and I made the Viewpoint of Billions stream! #Famous(OrSomething)

The Google glassware unlocks the narrative beneath the art. I saw three clips: Truman Capote talking about Studio 54 (weird), FDR’s Pearl Harbor speech to Congress (poignant), and the original Brickles game (fitting — it’s my fav). 

Everyone’s an editor, and you can too

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My grandmother was a great sender of clippings (a proto-email newsletter of sorts, for which she was editor and curator).

Personalized news sharing is a social necessity, and it’s also an excellent way to create gravitas for your organization (and yourself). The newsletter, in all its various digital manifestations, is on the rise.

The challenge for the new editorial class is to be good enough to read. We may be experts of our various domains, but it takes a bit more to be trusted, relevant,  and useful.

The best newsletters have a certain je ne sais quoi, which I’ve tried to parse. Here goes…:

1) Figure out when people want to receive your messages. Let’s assume people read their email more or less first thing in the morning, and get on with their lives. Aim for a quick-hit list and highlight why it’s important to them/their world. Quartz does this very well.

2) Consider finding news that people may have missed and help them make connections that they might not have made on their own. In other words: be smart and interesting. WonkPMAPI’s Need to Know newsletter, and Dispatches from the Future of Museums do this very well.  

3) Don’t ask people to click, they really don’t want to have to. Tell them what they need to know in the email, and let them click if they want to dive deeper — if they are really really interested. Focus on your “open” metrics, in other words. Think: Wonkblog.

4) Beautiful (or simple) interfaces create trust and loyalty. The goal should be information that is easily digested. Think like Google.

5) Offer a consistent, coherent, and cogent editorial voice. Today in Tabs and The Li.st manage to do this and make me snort latte out my nose.  

6) Use bright, lively writing. That’s what a book on my shelf tells me, anyway. If you struggle to be clever, just read more good writing and borrow liberally … everything is a remix, anyway.

7) Finally, learn what works. Mix it up and pay attention to what drives opens/gets clicked on.

This post is not quite over yet:

There are, of course, many other elements to consider:

  • Index list of stories that lets readers to click to items they want
  • Indicate for readers the time to read (and keep to under 4 min)
  • Stick with four or fewer elements for each section (and limit sections to three)
  • Provide easy share functionality
  • Enable readers to submit stories and ideas

Employee networks as competitive advantage

In order to fully realize their employees’ value, successful companies need to find creative ways to tap their networks (both online and offline / at work and outside of work).

WSJ: “Armed with reams of new data, companies including giants Procter & Gamble Co. andCisco Systems Inc. are seeking out ‘influencers,’ or those among their employees who are particularly well-connected and trusted by their peers.

Once found, the firms are harnessing these workers’ clout to come up with new products, get workers on board with big changes like mergers, or spread information throughout the organization.”

Pic: my pals at StreetWise Partners.

Big data: Dangerous