Ok, so you’re thinking, “What’s the point of Veokami? Why the hell should I vote for you in this Lollapalooza competition?

Good question. Social niceties aside (i.e I’ll support you because I’m your friend), there are some very good reasons you should vote for us in this competition, especially if you:

  • Love live music
  • Have trouble finding relevant videos from events
  • Take videos at events
  • Want me to buy you a beer. Ever. Again.

First up, Veokami is still in beta. We haven’t finished the product. What will it be within the next two months? Two key things.

  • A place to find video from events like conferences, concerts etc. Any event. We’re organising videos that were taken together in the same place by grouping them together so we can reconstruct parts of the event for you to re-experience.
  • A place where you can share your favourite moments from events you’ve attended and discuss those moments with likeminded people.

Why do you care? I’m going to number these for maximum impact. Yeah. This time, there’s more than two things.

  1. Finding and sorting through more than a handful of videos from a concert is hard… you can easily find the most popular videos. But what if you want to see what happens next? 9 times out of 10, Veokami will find you a video that will show you what happens next. 
  2. The next time I search for “Green Day Lollapalooza” and see some dude in his bedroom singing “Good Riddance” whilst strumming a cruddy guitar he bought at Walmart I’m going to commit seppuku. You know what I’m talking about. I hate that guy. Veokami uses math and smart stuff to make sure that douche doesn’t muddy your results.
  3. More of us are taking videos when we’re at events. Whether it’s iPhones, Android phones, Sony Bloggies, Flip cams whatever, the amount of video that’s being uploaded every minute would blow your mind: 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube, every minute. We need to be smarter about how we deal with these videos so we can find them later. Veokami takes an innovative approach that uses audio processing so we can group videos together.

We want to launch Veokami at an event like Lollapalooza, with the blessing of Lollapalooza, so that we can show the potential of what we’ve developed. Also, by the time August rolls around, we’ll have more features in place that will make our product vision clearer.

Please take the time to vote. Please note that the voting requires you to connect with Facebook in order to prevent fraud… not to spam you or your friends.

[NOTE: You can’t just “like” the submission. You have to click “Vote”… see the screenshot below]

Thank you! If we do win, beers are on me.

I’ve been reading resumes, interviewing and hiring people for various positions for 5 years or so. Support technicians, Designers, Engineers, Marketers, Office Admins, you name it.

While I am often depressed at how bad some of them are, I’m more depressed when I see great candidates who let themselves down by making silly mistakes. I’m not talking about spell-checking. I’m saying you should be mindful of the position you’re applying for and make sure your resume positively reflects your skills that are relevant to that position.

The layout of the document, the font you use, the colours you use (if any), your choice of words, all of these matter. They are subtle yet powerful signals to the reader. They’re also the kinds of things that many a well-meaning proof reader will miss.

Here are some examples. Imagine you’re a UX/UI/Interaction designer applying for a job.

  • You have URLs in your document that are underlined and look like links, but they’re not clickable. I click on them and nothing happens. Not very user friendly.
  • Your resume is grey text on black. Looks different, stands out from the crowd. But many people print resumes to read them, and that’d be a huge waste of ink.
  • Or maybe you’ve used grey text on white for that subtle, stylish look. But my LCD screen isn’t as good as your Apple Cinema Display and my colour settings are whacky. So I can’t read it.
  • You used a non standard structure for your resume so my desire to skim read it is stymied. Did you think about your audience here?
  • You made it so pretty and artful that I can’t quickly and easily consume the information therein. Ditto above.

These mistakes aren’t necessarily because the applicant is bad at what they do, although that’s possible. They probably didn’t consider that the document itself, beyond the words on the page, speak to how thoughtful/detail oriented/user-centric the creator actually is.

Consider these positions and some desired attributes of a person holding that position:

  • Visual Designer. Creative. Maker of beautiful things.
  • Engineer. Structured thinker. Problem Solver.
  • Support technician. Customer focused. Problem solver.
  • Marketer. Analytical. Creative.
  • Sales. Persuasive. Friendly.

Expanding my line of thinking above:

  • If you’re a visual designer, your resume should be attractive (without getting in the way of its function).
  • If you’re an engineer, your resume should be logical and cleanly structured.
  • If you’re in sales, your resume should make a good case as to why I should hire you.

Ideally, all resumes should be attractive, cleanly structured and make a good case as to why I should hire you. But some mistakes, such as the aforementioned not-links that trick me into clicking them, are cardinal sins for a UX Designer. Not so much for a marketer. An ugly resume is a big fat fail for a Visual Designer, but not for an engineer.

The next time you write a Resume, consider the signals you’re sending through your presentation and content choices. Think about the attributes your potential employer is looking for. Then pay attention to the details that will subtly convince her that you’re the right choice for the job… or at least avoid your resume languishing at the bottom of the pile.

v3o

I often take videos at events I attend. Birthday parties or weddings, nights out with friends, concerts, music festivals. They’re usually short, 3 minutes maybe. Some of them are worth sharing. Some of them aren’t. But the fact is, I have a HD video camera in my pocket pretty much all the time – my iPhone – so I might as well use it.

I’m not the only one. At some events I’ll start recording, only to notice that half the people in the room have spontaneously had the same idea. Now I’m just part of a growing sea of small screens echoing the action in front of me. Some of them started recording before me. Some of them continue recording after me.

So I’m wondering – why can’t I see those videos? If they’re friends on facebook I might see them, or I might miss them as they flow through my news feed. If I’m super keen and the video-taker labels them correctly, I can do 156 Youtube searches and find some of them. I have to watch them one at a time; I won’t see them in order; I won’t get any of the surrounding context. I can’t say “what happens next?” and then actually *find* videos that were recorded just after this one.

Why the hell can’t I find them? Why can’t I see these videos as a group? We were all recording something mutually interesting to us, in the same room at the same time. Surely these videos should be bound together, presented as a group, in context.

I couldn’t find an experience that did was I was looking for, so Chris and I are gonna make it. We’ve called it Veokami, like origami for videos (although the name has no real meaning, my Japanese friends reassure me). We’re taking a bunch of videos, folding them together and turning them into something more interesting.

We’re building the product at the moment, and we’re gonna take the time to get the experience right. In the meantime, check out veokami.com and sign up for an invite. Tell your friends. Spread the word. Hide your kids. Hide your wife. Let’s get this show on the road.

I’m excited, can you tell? :)

p.s The little robot, his name is v3o. Say hello.

Good post over on Venture Hacks today about the 4 Types of Scale. It transported back to the lengthy and often passionate discussions we had at GoodBarry/Business Catalyst about how to deal with some of the problems of scaling – whether they be technical, customer related, support related and so on. They were all scaling problems, dilemmas and trade offs. Spend money here, or spend time there? To hire or not to hire?

You can get yourself into a real trap when your business is growing and you need to scale up. You can focus on automation, you can engage your community more; you can outsource; you can buy a product and integrate it with your offering; you can hire someone to help deal with the load.

Doing any of those things has overhead that comes with it – money and time. Your money and time. Taking care of that overhead takes you away from developing and improving your core business. Whenever that happens, you get this horrible niggling feeling that you’re not doing the right thing, that you’re wasting time. That feeling drives you to make decisions based on expediency, which are usually crappy decisions. This is the trap. You feel like you’re doing the right thing and moving forward, but you’re not.

And bad decisions tend to keep begatting bad decisions, if you catch my somewhat biblical drift.

For example, as Nivi at Venture Hacks points out, hiring should be your last resort. Unfortunately, though, it’s often your first.

The reason for this is that it allows you to maintain the illusion that you can still focus on developing and improving the core business. That niggling feeling goes away, and you think: “great, now someone else can worry about that problem.” This is commonly known as “lying to yourself”.

The reason hiring should be your last resort is two fold.

Your opinions are infectious

They will likely inherit your disdain for the task you hired them to undertake. They’ll get the same niggling feeling. As the founder you’re setting the culture of the place, consciously or no, based on your own attitudes. Fail.

Hiring is not a shortcut

Hiring seems like a shortcut. It’s not. It’s a longcut. You need to find someone good. Then you need to teach them the ways of the force your product. Then they can fix the issue. By this time, it’s taken you much more effort and you’ve actually diverted more attention away from your core product than you intended. And now the problem is twice the size and even more insurmountable. Now you need to hire two more people to deal with it.

Let the bad-decision-begatting begin.

Hiring is great thing and it is a necessary part of growth. But the right time to do it is when you are growing the product outward, tackling new problems. Not when you’re groaning under the weight of your existing success.

There’s a balance between doing too much preparation for scaling – i.e automation – and doing too little. If you do too little, problems become very big, very quickly. If you do too much, you deliver way too slowly.

I think the trick is to push forward as hard as you can, but always consider the destination. What happens when you get there? What next? Will everything fall apart?

There’s no point running to the top of a mountain before nightfall if you don’t have a tent. But there’s also no point carrying a tent if you’re never going to get to the top of the mountain. That’s the dilemma of scaling.

I was chatting with a friend about business ideas and the different “types” of businesses we embark on. I think it’s generally accepted that entrepreneurs are a certain type of people – short term pain, long term gain. Take the leap. Have vision, will code, etc.

But just as some artists are driven to create certain types of art, entrepreneurs are drawn to certain types of businesses. I split it in two types (although there are, i’m sure, more): businesses that primarily require solid execution, and businesses that primarily require creative vision.

Every business requires solid execution, and every business needs a vision. But some of them, when you consider what you’d need to do to be successful, are often weighted in a direction.

Execution

Perfect example – Groupon clones. Take, for example, Living Social. Or one of my mothercountry’s Groupon clones, like Scoopon or (the recently acquired) Spreets. These businesses didn’t require a strong creative vision. They’re all about execution. Do what Groupon is doing better. Or do it more local.

The entrepreneur needs to be to be a strong executor, a chess master playing 6, 8, 16 moves ahead. Someone else has chosen the battlefield; now you go forth and beat them.

Many very successful businesses have been execution heavy businesses. It’s been said that being first to market isn’t as important as we once thought. I think Facebook is an execution business. Same idea as Friendster and Myspace, different execution. That’s not to say Zuckerberg didn’t have a vision, but he didn’t break the mold with something revolutionary; it was a social network for colleges. But therein, he found the winning formula.

Google, same thing. Better tech, better execution. But it’s a search engine in 1998; not a new concept. They built a better monkey wrench, and won.

Creativity

Perfect examples are Dodgeball/Foursquare and Twitter. These businesses did something rather new, created something people didn’t know they wanted but then discovered they loved. They’re driven by a person’s vision or an idea. They had to build something to see if people liked it.

It’s been pretty well publicized that twitter has made some missteps (as do many young companies), but they can afford to make more missteps than a Groupon clone can. Twitter not a commodity product; they got to market first and defined a new “thing”. They’ve messed up a couple of times but they’re still winning.

Which type to pursue?

So, I’m sitting with an entrepreneur and they’re considering tackling a new business. They’ve got a few ideas, but guess what – the top two fall into opposing categories – execution vs creative vision.

I think it comes down to two things.

  • Which are you more suited to?
  • What’s your ultimate aim?

My gut feeling is that businesses in the execution category are probably more likely to succeed. By the definition I laid out above, we’re talking about concepts and markets that are already somewhat proven – you know there’s a market there already. You’re improving on it in some way, sure, but the idea has been shown to work to some extent. Go on, build a better mousetrap. We know the world needs mousetraps, you win if you can execute.

Creative businesses are a hit-based affair; like a musician, authors or artists, you’re trying to put out a hit. Millions of users, “the people will love you”, all that jazz. Twitter could have flopped. In fact, people predicted it would – who cares if your cat rolled over? What thoughts of value could you possibly say in 140 characters? But it worked.

Same with Foursquare. So, you want me to play a game where I have to ignore my friends for a minute when i’m at a bar while i check into some stupid app to earn points that don’t even get me anything? Sure thing. But there was something there. 6 million users of “something there”. Boom, it’s a hit.

So, coming back to my two things, it’s time for some broad-brush-maybe-half-false generalisations:

  • If you’re a chess player, a strategist, a get things done guy – you’re probably an executor.
  • If you fancy yourself an artist, a visionary, you’re probably a creative business type of person.
  • If you’re in it for the money, you’re a execution business type of guy.
  • If you’re in it for the fame, you’re a creative business type of gal.

The real killers are the strategic artists. Mathematician musician chess masters. Watch out for them. They’ll get the cake, win the championship and steal your spouse. Hide your kids, hide your wife kind of stuff. They’re the Steve Jobs of tomorrow: rare, powerful, and about to own half of your city.

The exciting thing is, the (multiple) friends that I’ve had this conversation with – are “strategic artist” type of people. And hotdiggitydamn(!) it’s going to be exciting to see what they’re going to come out with this year.

When I was about 13 years old my father took me on a holiday to Singapore. I had a blast; it was a new country with new sights, sounds and experiences. I also learned an important lesson.

If you haven’t been to Singapore, one of the (many) cool things about the place is the food. And so, when in Singapore, you eat. A lot. And at one restaurant we were presented with a rather interesting dish. It was brown, goopy and spongey, and my thirteen year old brain was like: “that’s gross!” I then verbalised this sentiment.

My dad’s response: “I don’t care if you don’t like it as long as you try it first.”

Me: “I don’t like it.”

Dad: “You haven’t tried it yet. Try it, then tell me you don’t like it.”

I ate it. I didn’t like it. But the lesson stuck.

Fast forward about 15 years. Personalised content and custom recommendations are commonplace. Whether it’s Netflix making recommendations or Pandora allowing you to tailor your listening preferences, you’re watching, reading and listening to the things that you know you’re likely to enjoy before you try them. Sounds great. But what about trying different things?

I’m worried about a future where everything is tailored to your taste. Tastes and preferences can and should change. For example, the music I listened to at age 16 is different to the music I listen to now. And no – it’s not just that my taste is maturing due to age. It has a lot to do with a desire for exploration, receiving recommendations by friends, and by generally taking joy in exploring things outside my comfort zone.

Not all of us venture out of our comfort zone, and the motivations for doing so are pretty interesting in themselves. But for me – I love discovering new things. There is a thrill in tasting something new, seeing something different. Many of my friends and family feel the same joy in discovery.

So what happens when we’re systematically pushed towards a new choice based on past choices? Ah, yes… you liked Blah so you’ll like Bleh, right? Rather than growing and changing as people, we become static. Your tastes solidify and you become just like everyone else in a particular category. We become our own little echo chambers, with every choice informing the next choice, waltzing down a path of algorithmic satisfaction and zero adventure.

I’m not trying to make a scientific argument about recommendation engines, or say that personalisation is bad, or that we shouldn’t enjoy the recommendations we receive from algorithms. I just want to make two points.

First, I want an anti-recommendation engine. Something that shows me something I probably WOULDN’T have tried. An algorithm that says, “Based on your past choices, here’s something you haven’t tried and might not like but goddammit you should try it anyway.”

Second: Don’t knock it till you try it.

Sometimes you’ll hear a sentence like this:

“That product is stupid. X has been around forever, and you can do the same thing with X if you install plugin Y.”

Most recently I’ve heard this thinking applied to the new Browser, RockMelt. “Oh,” they scoff, “that’s just Google Chrome with a few extensions. Why bother.”

Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re not; that’s not the point.

The point is: never underestimate the power of default.

When building a product, the thing you should spend your most time on isn’t making sure that everyone can configure your product to their needs. It’s making sure that you’re creating a default that is perfect for the people you’re reaching out to.

Apple often wins because they make an effort to choose good defaults. Unfortunately this is sometimes at the expense of configurability.

Windows Vista failed cause it had bad defaults. Do you really need all those security warnings?

“Default” is the reason IE6 still plagues us.

So I, for one, have not yet installed a single Google Chrome plugin (oh dear). Rockmelt looks pretty neat. Not sure if I’ll use it permanently yet, but I’ll give it a go for a while and see.

Never underestimate the power of default.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of planning and projection-ing lately, and it got me thinking about how much planning and projecting is really valuable and how much is just a complete crystal-ball-gazing, hai-i-can-has-mathematics waste of time.

So, the fine people at 37 Signals have noted that planning is guessing, and I generally agree. That said, there’s certainly value in considering questions like:

  • How much money could we make next year?
  • What initiatives should we work on and what might be the best use of my time?
  • Should I hire some XYZs and how many of them? Can we afford it?
  • What do you do if you’re in Space and nobody can hear you scream?

So how much planning is enough planning, and when should you stop? What value is there in working on projections 1 year ahead? Two years ahead? More?

I think the answer lies in the fact that longer term planning quickly becomes recursive guessing. Your “estimations” become built on the  assumed validity of the previous “estimations”. And that’s not a good thing. Because when you’re starting to make guesses based on other guesses, you’re getting farther and farther away from reality.

In other words, you should make one set of independant “guesses” and quit. I’m not saying you should stop considering potential futures and consulting the crystal ball. I am saying you should quit with the detailed planning and financial analysis.

Here’s an example. Let’s say I’m working on projections for the next two years. Here’s what you’d do.

  1. Take some known or assumed metrics and constants for the previous year
  2. Consider the planned initiatives for the next year
  3. Make some intelligent and reasonable estimations (aka good guesses) about the metrics in (1) and how they might change over the year
  4. Apply your growth assumptions (3) to your known metrics (1)
  5. Now you have some simple projections for year 1.

At this point, I’ve taken some solid data about last year. Now I’m making some educated guesses about next year.

But I said I wanted a two year plan. To do that, I’m going to take the projected results for the next year, then I’m going to feed the results into step 1) above…. and then the warning bells should go off – I’m making guesses on top of guesses… Abort!

In big companies, people love to make 2 and 5 year plans. Sometimes, the industry might be mature enough that they’re not really making too many guesses because there is enough data to feel confident about your projections.

General rule of thumb – your ability to project into the future is proportional to the maturity of your business.

But that practice isn’t driven by the desire for accuracy; it’s driven by the need to build a security blanket and a false belief that we’re smart enough to see into the future.

In reality, such long term plans and projections are not just a waste of time. They’re harmful. Two reasons:

  • They set false expectations. Employees, managers, board members, shareholders, all of these people build their expectations based on these long term projections. When their expectations are broken, the employees are disappointed, people don’t get their bonuses, share prices plummet. Whoopsie.
  • They create false inertia. Once a plan is in place, it’s like laying down psuedo-tracks for the train. Moving the tracks can be done, but there’ll be some resistance to the change – people will question the wisdom of the new direction versus the old, you need to get everybody on board just to change a direction that you never should have set in the first place.

I am a big fan of making plans and running up some projections – it helps give you clarity and the opportunity to think about the future. But detailed plans and projections that build guesses on top of guesses – that’s bad juju.

“You’re too expensive.”

Sound familiar? I’d bet that every business owner has heard a customer say this, be it true or not.
Before we dismiss this and start justifying that our price is just right – or even worse, start discounting – let’s think about the last customer who told you that you were too expensive. What were they thinking? Why? How could you have changed their minds?

This is a question that gnaws at the mind of many business owners, and, when confronted, the natural reaction is to make arguments as to why you aren’t overpriced. You’ll make comparisons. You’ll draw analogies. You’ll give discounts. And maybe you’ll ultimately win the customer over.

Hooray, and well done. You’ve got the sale.

But here’s the not-so-obvious bit: many customers have made a decision about the price your product should be before they actually learned your price.

In other words, their price was set before your price was revealed. They made a decision about what they were willing to pay before you told them what you wanted them to pay.

And that means that you could have changed their minds before they even saw the price.

A Traveler’s Expectations

Great Expectations

A couple of years back I lived in Beijing for about 6 months while studying. As with most travelers who find themselves in country where they have a currency advantage, I found that many everyday things were much more affordable. Catching a taxi cost around a tenth of what I’d usually pay; eating out was similarly inexpensive. With less walking and more luxurious eating habits, my waistline started expanding pretty quickly.

My perception of what was expensive and what was cheap was set by my expectations of what I’d be paying at home – what I was used to paying for the same service or product.

It wasn’t long before my perception began to change. I began to evaluate things more natively, and Chinese prices became their own benchmarks. My thinking became: “this restaurant is expensive compared to the one around the corner” rather than “this meal is so cheap compared to my local noodle joint back in Sydney”.

This set up me up for a terrible shock when I got back home, since everything was suddenly insanely expensive! Over time this feeling fades and a $10 meal is no longer highway robbery. But the point remains – my price expectations changed because of my environment. How much I was willing to pay went up, then down, then up again… all based on my perception of value and worth set by my environment.

So – what are your customer’s perceptions of value? What are they comparing your product to, and what experiences might they be drawing on?

Welcome to Wal-Mart

When you go to Wal-Mart, you expect low prices. Everyday low prices is their mantra; their advertising emphasises this endlessly, or once did. Walk into one of their cavernous stores and the endless aisles with their intentionally not-yet-unpacked pallets of goods on sale scream to you that you’re in a warehouse. You’re one step closer to the supplier. You’re cutting out the plush middle man. You’re saving money.

This is a well crafted image that gives you the feeling that you’re being frugal. Doing battle with the crowds and walking half a kilometer back to your car translates to saving money. Your expectation at Wal-Mart is that prices will be low because of the environment you’re in, the experience you have and because their branding and marketing tells you that they will be.

Luxury stores are the exact opposite – spacious and clean, with neatly spaced merchandise and wide racks made of sturdy materials. Each bag perches on a pedestal arranged just-so. The store looks and feels pricey, the staff are insanely fashionable… you already know that the products here aren’t cheap.

How is your marketing and your store’s look and feel conditioning your customer’s expectations of price?

What’s that?

Ridin' Durrrrty.

To infinity. And beyond!

You point at a strange looking wheeled object in your friend’s loungeroom. You ask your friend: “What’s that?”   And they respond:”That, my friend, is the most advanced vacuum cleaner in the world; completely automatic and cleans the house itself. It’s a Roomba.”

Now you’re already wondering how much it costs; you want one. And who wouldn’t want a Roomba, they’re freaking cool.

But what if your friend answered differently, saying:”That’s some vacuum cleaner my mum got me for my birthday. It’s a little spooky and doesn’t work properly. Who wants a little robot running around their house pretending to vacuum things?”

You might disagree with your friend’s statement about robots, because robots are awesome. But the lack of a testimonial or recommendation in that statement devalues the product. The way that you as a marketer or you as a user talks and presents your product makes a significant impact on perceived value.

How are you talking about your products? In your marketing materials, on your website, on the phone… are you actively using words that convey the value?

Your Checklist: Expectations, Images, Words.

My three stories above illustrated these three core points. Let me recap.

Expectations. Your expectations about a product and it’s price or quality are shaped by your experiences with comparable things.

Image. The look and surroundings of a product affect the perceived value of the product.

Words. The words and attitude you and your customers take when describing the product affect the perceived value of the products.

That’s it. If people are saying you’re too expensive, then you’ve messed up on one (or all) of the above three.

Prologue: back-to-the-future!

I wrote this post 2 or 3 years ago for the GoodBarry Blog, so it was fun to re-read this post two years after it was written. It’s interesting how I’ve translated my experiences and formed my thoughts around certain concepts and explained ideas with interesting analogies. I still believe in them, but I’d probably explain them differently now.

At GoodBarry/Business Catalyst, we dealt with (and still deal with, of course) plenty of objections. We would consider every strategy below (and more) in the process of refining the message, positioning, and go-to-market for our product. Two years later, older but barely wiser, I might tell my past self to read about Product/Market fit and the problems startups need to address. I’d also paraphrase myself to say that when you encounter objections to your product (what I call broccoli problems below), then you should ask three questions:

  • Are you targeting the right customer?
  • Is your message the most effective message for that customer?
  • Do you have a product problem or a marketing problem? Marketing problems are related to the above points, product problems are deeper issues that happen after someone you believe to be the right customer engages with your product.

Anyway. I have no time machine, but I still like the concept of a Broccoli problem and very much believe in the points I’ve made below. Have a read and let me know what you think.

My Aunt has a Broccoli Problem.

My Aunt Susan, being a good mother, wants her son to eat Broccoli because it’s healthy. My cousin Ben, being a typical boy, doesn’t want to eat Broccoli because it tastes bad. This gave me an idea, which I’m going to call “The Broccoli Problem”. My aunt has very valid reasons to give her son broccoli – it’s for his health. But her son resists – also for valid reasons that are relevant to him. The son will say:

Broccoli may be good for you but it tastes terrible.

Broccoli problems are everywhere, always contain a ‘However’ or a ‘But’ and are nearly always subjective (you complete the sentences) :

  • Lower taxes may stimulate a stagnant economy, but …
  • Your girlfriend may have a wonderful personality, but …
  • George W. Bush may be a great leader, however …

I’ll remain silent on how I’d complete those sentences, but here’s where I’m going with this: The Broccoli Problem is a marketing problem that you probably need to think about. Complete this sentence:

Your product/service may be of great benefit to the market, however …

Every business has, or once had, a Broccoli Problem that they have to solve. So, how did my Aunt solve hers? Easy: she diced the broccoli up and baked it into a tasty Lasagne. To this very day, her son still doesn’t realize he’s eating a plateful of Broccoli Lasagne. This is one strategy of dealing with a Broccoli Problem – repackaging the broccoli to counteract the negative after the “however”. I can think of two more strategies and I’m sure there’s more:

  1. Repackaging to disguise the negative.
  2. Removing the negative from the product.
  3. Embracing the negative

Repackage it

This is what my Aunt did – she put the broccoli in a tasty Lasagne, which negated the broccoli’s taste while still passing on the health benefit. That’s repackaging the negative. In business, a classic case of a repackaging the negative is the age-old payment plan. Think about this Broccoli problem:

The Prius is an eco-friendly, stylish car, BUT I can’t afford it right now.

Imagine you’re on the car lot saying this to the saleswoman. She’ll shoot back “Ah, but have you heard of our payment plans?” By doing this, she’s effectively negated your ‘however’ factor by repackaging the car in an easy to digest payment plan.

When you repackage something, you’re not changing the product itself. You’re not changing the broccoli – you’re changing the way it’s presented, the nature of the deal or how the product is sold. Repackaging strategies nearly always revolve around ideas like:

  • Cost amortization (payment plans)
  • Bundling (selling X + Y + Z together)
  • Splitting (Selling X + Y separately instead of as one)

So you can see we’re not changing the product. We’re changing the way it’s sold. That’s repackaging.

Repackaging a Broccoli problem isn’t always the best solution, but sometimes it’s the only solution you can feasibly implement. That’s where the other two strategies, Removing the Negative and Embracing the Negative, come in.

Remove it

Sometimes you can entirely remove the objection after the “however”. This is impossible with Broccoli -my aunt couldn’t exactly genetically engineer a broccoli plant to taste like french fries. Generally, you should always consider removing the negativer first, before any other strategy.

Think about this problem:

ABC software will help you grow your business HOWEVER it’s difficult to use.

The best way to tackle this one is to remove the “However” factor altogether; fix your software so it’s not difficult to use. This requires effort and might be difficult and costly, but it’s the best solution. It may seem obvious – if you have a problem with your product, you should look at removing that problem. Duh.

But there is a caveat here. What about this one:

ABC software will help you grow your business but it’s too expensive.

“Ah ha!” one might say, “I can fix that!” Whoa. Slow down Tiger.

Pricing is part of a larger picture, and “expensive” is more of a factor of how much perceived value is present in your product. So yeah, maybe you should make it cheaper. Maybe not.

Anyway, pricing aside, these factors (the removable ones) are the hardest to fix and the hardest to even identify, but they also carry the most rewards.

Embracing it

So, that guy doesn’t like the taste of broccoli, no problems. Ok… go and find someone who does, find a better target market. The possibility is that you’ve just landed in the wrong market, and your product is better suited to another audience.

This one’s rather interesting, because sometimes you don’t necessarily need to embrace the problem itself, but rather you need to find people who at least don’t care. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t always work and isn’t always the right solution; my aunt couldn’t exactly go and swap her son.

But still, there are many Broccoli problems that can be solved this way. Think about Diet Cola.

Diet Cola may have less sugar but it doesn’t taste as good as regular Cola.

You can fix this Broccoli problem by simply finding people who care more about the health benefits and less about the taste. Most broccoli problems can be solved this way, although sometimes it’s not optimal to do so.

Consider every single statement mentioned throughout this post – all of them could be addressed by embracing the problem. You just need to find the niche of people who care more about the positive side and much less about the negative side. Problem solved.

P.S When I wrote this post, I hated on Broccoli. But now I’ve also come to enjoy Broccoli in certain dishes. People learn, people change, the world goes around. Cowabunga.

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