You’ll never believe what these guys are really selling!

The other day I was in the airport where a new startup was sampling itself. It’s an app to jump the coffee queue. I’m always stoked to see people having a go at a new business and got them to give me their pitch. It’s always good for entrepreneurs to practice unprepared. Then I realised I got a coffee but didn’t use their service. And here’s why:

Part of what I’m buying is the wait.

Yep, some of the people getting their morning java actually enjoy the wait. The wait is what is being sold. Sometimes it’s the conversation with the Barrista, and sometimes it’s the walk to the cafe. I guess we can throw the coffee on that list too.

Morning coffee

This is why you’ve seen a hundred other apps for people to jump coffee queue and they never quite work. I’m also wondering what happens if the app is successful?  Wont all those who used it end up ‘in a queue again’ via a digital deli ticketing system? The problem probably isn’t the arrival time, but the output bottleneck in peak demand times.

It;s another reminder that an effective business model isn’t just about demand – it’s very often about why we buy, and the model and the friction… and how money can be made through the transaction process, not just with the transaction itself.  As for the entrepreneurs, they did the right thing by having a crack. They could prove me wrong and I hope they do. Their worse case scenario is that they learn plenty and pivot closer to the success they deserve.

Follow me on SnapChat – search ‘Sammartron’ for more business insight. Click here if on mobile to add now.

How technology weirdly solves the problems it creates

The erudite Kevin Kelly says that the solution to problems caused by technology is more technology. And I couldn’t agree more. It’s easy to think that regression might be the solution, but once we realise that technology is literally its own organism, with its own agenda, then we can pretty quickly come to the conclusion that the best way to fix things is to work with the world and its natural trajectory. And technology, given it was invented by natural beings, is simply a force of nature.

I was thinking about what something like the Pokemon Go phenomenon could do if such gaming mechanics where put to positive use. Then weirdly I asked the barista in my local cafe what he did on the weekend and he said he did a fair bit of walking – 50km’s to be exact.. I said, oh cool, do you go up to the mountains or along the river. To which he replied just around the suburbs, no where specific. I said that’s interesting…. and then he finally admitted he was chasing Pokemon.

It got me thinking about digital technology being partially blamed for the obesity epidemic, especially in children… and most likely that digital technology is the solution too. Pokemon Go is one way to get kids moving, but maybe the new Lilly Drone (seen below) or some other kind of Dronian Angel could be used to watch over and follow kids as they move around town. Maybe they can walk or ride to school again as it may alleviate some safety concerns? Who knows?

The point is, we need to open our mind to real problems emerging technology can solve. How it can bring back some positive patterns of the past (walking to school) and invent entirely new possibilities. I think it is exciting.

If you want to read the best book in recent years on this topic, then be sure to get onto KK’s latest effort – the Inevitable. I savoured every word.

The single truth about viral activity – It’s just scenery

The internet is an infinite ever expanding place. We all live inside of it, move around it and want our share of attention and activity from it. The ultimate thing we all seem to want (even if secretly) is to get everyone to pay attention to our blog post, video, social feed, pithy statement of insight and all other forms of digital output. That’s the promise of something going viral. Because if we get that attention, if everyone catches on and shares our work, we’ll be on the path the greatness. We’ll have broken through the masses and be able to leverage the focus on us. Turn attention into a relationship. That’s the promise of being shared on the Verge or Buzzfeed or Viral Nova. But here’s the truth about that piece of viral marketing. It doesn’t work, it rarely has impact and is a fleeting moment, a shooting star, a moment from which the utility is the moment itself. It expires quickly.

What we need to imagine is this. The internet is a giant beach. We are all grains of sand on that beach. Some of us try to be more than a single, undifferentiated grain of sand. We agglomerate, co-ordinate and try and turn ourselves into something worth noticing. Maybe we become a beautiful sea shell. Beautiful enough for the the people walking along that beach to stop and take notice. They might see us, pick us up and inspect the sea shell. Comment on the sheer beauty, show their friend who they happen to be walking along the beach with. We get passed around, and we become the moment. They might even take the sea shell – save it – put it in the pocket and take it home, because it’s valuable – add it to their ‘favourites’. But what we must really understand is that they will keep on walking. The passer by is not there for us. Even if they are walking along the beach (the internet) to see and find interesting things, we can only ever be one of those things that makes their journey interesting. They continue on with whatever it is they are doing and onto their destination.

sea shell

Viral activity, in real terms is just scenery. And I should know. I’ve had a number of blog posts with more than 100,000 views. I’ve had 2 videos with millions of views. And I’ve been featured on all those websites mentioned at the the start of this blog post. And the over riding lesson is that people get on with their lives. Viral marketing is only effective when there is a formula for repeated impact – a business model around it, which is not easy to do. If we want the impact that we falsely believe viral marketing can create, then we’d be better off focusing on utility and frequency. That is creating something which has utility for the people beyond the moment. Utility which is worth coming back for again and again. And what that takes isn’t luck, it’s more about hard work serving others over long periods of time.

 

How to lose a customer

I’ve been using a certain weather app on my phone for some time. It is called Pocket Weather AU – Lite. It is the free version. A few times when I have clicked in to check the weather, it has given me this pop up screen below:

Pocket Weather

This time in good faith, I thought I’d click through and see what the offer was. To my disappointment, it was a simple ‘buy our paid version‘ of the app. No benefit, no exclusivity, nothing had been unlocked, no reason, no thanks for using. Just their way of asking me to upgrade. Now if you ask me there cannot be a more insulting way to incentivise a customer to upgrade. Tell them they are a cheapskate, pretend to offer something better, and then give them nothing for using the service for a few years.

Here’s what I did. I deleted their app – got another equally good free weather app, and wrote this blog entry about what I think might not be the best way to engage an audience your doing business with. Some things these guys might want to consider:

  1. If you don’t want your app to be free, then make it a paid version.
  2. Insulting people is not a very effective way to get them to upgrade financially to a software or web service.
  3. Making promises of exclusivity and non existent benefits is generally not a good idea.
  4. Understand the economics of excess supply. There are a zillion other free weather apps and my cost of moving to another service is close to zero.
  5. But mostly respect people, and maybe make them some kind of offer or reward for loyalty if employing a fermium business model.

I prefer to be positive in life, and have not even enjoyed writing this entry. Maybe that’s the over riding lesson. Don’t lie, treat people with respect and  positivity and they just might give you more money.

twitter-follow-me13

Derivative Success

While success is a relative term, there is a simple way to know if we’ve built something we can regard as a huge macro success. And that is when others are claiming derivative success within the platform we have created.

Examples could include:

  • A top downloaded iPhone app
  • X million views for a Youtube video
  • A featured post about your project on Boing Boing
  • Being person X on platform Y

Once someone can be regarded a success because they have used what we’ve built well, that’s when we know we’ve really changed the world.

twitter-follow-me13

Short media memory & piracy

Digital Piracy

Kim Dotcom sent out a tweet a couple of days ago on how to stop digital piracy. It was the most succinct realistic view of the digital market place I’ve read. While the stop part might be an overstatement, it would certainly minimise it. I’ve taken his points and listed them below:

How to stop piracy:

  1. Create great stuff
  2. Make it easy to buy
  3. Works on any device
  4. Same day global release
  5. Fair price

The last four on this list really speak volumes. But the thing which is really standing out to me on this list, is that most media companies seem to have forgotten the reasons why they did things a certain way prior to the digital era. Most of their decisions were based on what was possible. The limitations on selling their goods were physical realities. Although these physical realities no longer exist, they seem to have forgotten why they did things a certain way. That way was the only way. The stability of the media system pre-web seems to have distorted their minds to the point that they forget the ‘why’. I’m going to reference the recorded music business to show how their rigidity has failed them. In fact the digital world is actually what they always wanted, and that piracy is not the problem, but the industry’s poor memory.

Make it easy to buy: In a digital age, the best advice anyone can give, is to sell it in as many places as possible. This is always the case for any mass market product. Rewind back to the pre digital music industry and you’ll remember that record companies would sell their records in any store that would stock it. Kmart, Target, Walmart, the local independent record shop. So long as it was out there they were happy. Sales representatives were judged on the number of distribution points they got their stock into. But for some reason they seem to have forgotten this fact. They now decide to hold back on potential distribution points for no apparent reason. The early iTunes revolt being the easiest example we can all remember. Totally counter to what they did before the format changed. So why the music industry don’t embrace this and make it ‘easy to buy’ is beyond me.

Works on any device: It used to be really hard for the music industry to do this before digital. They had to invest in manufacturing for vinyl records, then cassette tapes, then beta, then VHS, then CD…. but they did it and moved quickly to have their content available in all formats. So why the change of heart now? Why don’t they move as quickly as they used to? This is especially strange given that they no longer have to make physical stuff to make their content available on any device. Or even worse, when it’s already loaded up onto a content platform and they restrict usage depending on the device you a re retrieving it from. Vevo on youtube is the classic example. If a song won’t play on my mobile via Vevo, I’ll just listen to a another song. No revenue for you! It’s much easier to do now than it was then.

Same day global release: If you can, then you should. Simple. Here’s the thing the recording industry has forgotten about their pre digital staggered global release programs. Every new market (country) they entered had extra associated costs with it. They used to have to make more stock (records, CDs) to sell. Pay to get their content promoted on TV and radio. (Now we’e all immediately aware of of any big music launch once it happens) They had to change the formats to suit particular markets. They had to ship records on boats for 4+ weeks across oceans. They wanted to be sure the record would be a hit before they invested all the money into wider market expansion. They had reasons to delay global release plans. Reasons largely around stock, promotions, production and mitigating financial risk. None of these reasons exist today.

Fair price: When people get a raw deal, they find an alternative. They even cheat. People know the costs of content distribution are minuscule compared to the pre-digital era. This ought be recognised more than it has been in many digital channels. I truly believe most people will pay a fair price. And in the words ‘fair price’ I would like to add the idea of purchase without friction. Simple ways for us to give you our money so we can get on with enjoying the content. Not a million hoops to jump through. I’d go as far as saying that most people want to pay those who bring them joy with their output. In a world of zero cost digital duplication, then fair pricing  would mean taking out 100% of the now removed physical production costs.

Once we get over the fact that anything which is both digital and good will be pirated by some people, then we can get on with business and just know it’s a fact of life. A cost of doing business. We shouldn’t let it paralyse us into avoiding new methods.

The laws of nature tell us much about piracy or lost revenue. If we don’t distribute the output it goes bad. Stored water which isn’t sent out via distribution channels evaporates, natures form of piracy. The longer we wait, the more we lose.  We can add to this the frustration distributors have with non global release plans.  So much so that distributors are becoming makers (Netflix) because they can’t get what they need.  The end result is a great demarcation with all things digital. If we can’t get it, we’ll make it ourselves or source it elsewhere. The best approach would be to embrace the reality omnipresence and immediacy. 

Seinfeld Today = Digital Training

I’m totally in love with Modern Seinfeld on Twitter (@seinfeldtoday). Each day I tune into the stream hoping for some more tweets which serve up 140 more characters of Seinfeld goodness. For the uninitiated, Modern Seinfeld is an ‘unofficial’ tweet stream in which each tweet is the synopsis for a fictional modern day Seinfeld episode. It really is the stuff of genius.

Seinfeld Today - on Twitter

But it has another possibly unintended benefit. It’s also a short cut to an understanding of the world we live in. For anyone who has been asleep for the past 15 years, and missed out on the revolution, then all they need to do is tune into this twitter feed. 397 tweet reads later and they’ll be all over digital pop culture. Check out these doozies below as examples:

Screen shot 2013-05-13 at 5.52.54 PMScreen shot 2013-05-13 at 5.53.56 PMScreen shot 2013-05-13 at 5.54.47 PM

The other cool thing, is that the real Jerry hasn’t done anything ridiculous like asking them to take it down due to copyright infringement. Which is exactly what we’d expect from many old world media owners.

twitter-follow-me13