Best of Seeds 10/15/06 to 10/21/06

October 15th to the 21st, 2006

This week we seem to be focused on getting it right for the customer:

From Seeds of Growth--Customers Need Time to Learn
Sometimes getting it right for the customer includes giving them time to learn.

From Other Business Blogs
Number 3-- Ziba Design on the importance of informed intuition. from Putting People First.
What is required to "get it right" for your customer? Is it research? Is it intuition? Is it just plain happy luck? Steve McCallion of Ziba design talks about informed intuition. “Informed intuition is a systematic way of filling up your decision-making process with a deep understanding of whom you’re designing for, so you make smart decisions as opposed to guesses."

Number 2--Why Do People Look Like Their Dogs? from Seth Godin.
This one is worth the click just to look at the pictures, but there is also some good insight here. Customers buy what they buy because it validates their perception of themselves. What perception of themselves do customers validate when they buy your product or service? Do they feel more fashionable? Do they feel more secure? Do they feel confused?

Number 1--Reducing Fear is the Killer App. from Creating Passionate Users.
Kathy Sierra describes the role fear plays in getting it right for the customer. Are there any "fears" you can help your customers reduce or alleviate? "Whether it's a policy change, better documentation and support, or more user-friendly design, anything you do to genuinely reduce my fear improves my life. Why not ask customers about their needs before you agree to sell them something?"

Good luck Getting it Right!
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Customers Need Time to Learn

Customers Need Time to Learn

I had to make a late night run to our local grocery store the other night (thumb tacks for a seventh grade school project). After finding the thumb tacks I was disappointed to get to the front of the store and find that the "self-checkout" lines were closed. The only option was to go through a "normal" check out line. There was no wait but I was still disappointed.

Why is that blog worthy? Because when the self-checkout lines first got installed, I detested them. I hated that voice commanding me to put my groceries in the bag and refusing to let me do anything else until I did. I also detested having to wave my box of spaghetti (yeah, I still call it spaghetti--not pasta) five or six times over the bar code reader at every angle conceivable to get it to read. And I really hated trying to find my produce in all the little pictures (felt some kind of test).

Apparently my fellow shoppers felt the same way, because every time I was ready to check out, there were lines at the normal checkouts and nobody was using the 4 self-checkout machines. Maybe it is just me, but I hate doing nothing and I hate reading about what Brad and Angelina are doing to break Jen's heart and about who is too fat and who is too skinny. In fact, I hated it even more than the self-checkout process so I started using self checkout.

Just like anything new, there was a bit of a learning curve but it got easier. In fact, I think I can safely say I'm now as fast as Sandra down on cash register 3! Here is the amazing thing: I'm not alone. It is rare now to not see a line for the self-checkout machines. It turns out the machines gives us just what we wanted in the first place: faster checkout (or at least the perception of faster checkout).

The lessons? Well, first a better implementation of the checkout machines would probably have hastened their acceptance, but beyond that sometimes customers need time to learn and get comfortable with new innovations. Had store management reviewed the self-checkout performance after the first three months I'm sure they would have been seen as a dismal failure. Next time you're planning an innovation in your customer experience, don't forget to include learning time.

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Best of Seeds 10/8/06 to 10/14/06

October 8th to the 14th, 2006

Here are the best picks of the week:

From Seeds of Growth--Failing to Succeed
Like it or not, admit it or not, the risk of failure is an integral part of being an entrepreneur. Some thoughts on the role failure plays in success.

From Other Business Blogs
Number 3-- What gets Measured Gets Improved from Be Excellent.
Here's a solid idea to help you avoid failure. It is true--what gets measured gets improved. Unfortunately, what gets measured is usually based on what is easiest to measure and not what is most important to the growth of your company. Put your effort into measuring important things like how happy you make your customers.

Number 2--Netflix Contest from Church of the Customer.
Want to win $1 million bucks? All you have to do is come up with a better movie recommendation engine than Netflix currently has. What does that have to do with your business? Look at the benefits to Netflix: marketing buzz, more engaged customers and likely some great ideas. What could you invite your customers to do?

Number 1--Listening Centered Marketing from Pete Blackshaw via Church of the Customer.
"Listening may well be our major source of strategic and tactical competitive advantage." How "actively" are you listening to your customers?

Best of Luck!
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Failing to Succeed

Failing to Succeed

I'm convinced that starting a business in a free-market society is one of the best learning laboratories known to man. Where else does a person have the opportunity and the impetus to be constantly learning so many new things just to survive? In addition to the number and variety of learning opportunities, the "invisible" hand of the marketplace is a fair and consistent schoolmaster that doesn't play favorites and always responds with the appropriate "grade." Thus, while starting or running a business, you are never more than your bank statement or cash register away from knowing how well you are learning what the market wants. If you don't learn quickly enough, you will eventually fail--and many do.

There is a lot of discussion around small business failure statistics. Nobody knows for sure, but it is agreed that the number is large. The SBA says says 40% of new businesses go down in the first year. Eighty percent are gone within five years and another 80 percent of the remaining 20% are gone in the next five years. Given that 400,000 new ones start each year, that is a lot of failure. As I've thought about that (and yes, added to those failure statistics myself more than a few times) I've struggled some with exactly what is the right way to think about failure?

Let me say this straight up: I'm not looking to rationalize failure into some kind of moral success. My college football team, Brigham Young University, has had several rough years of late. This year they seem to have the tools to start consistently winning again. A few weeks into the season they took on Boston College, a ranked team at the time, and lost in overtime. We gained more yards, had more first downs and should have won. We didn't. Some called it a moral victory. Maybe--but it felt a whole lot like failure. A few weeks later we played TCU, another ranked team, this time the team got the job done and we won 31-17. It felt much better than losing. In any endeavor where the method of keeping score is known and agreed to in advance, not winning on the scoreboard is losing no matter how much you learn or how close you come. As one of my son's high school friends said the other day, "second place is just the first loser."

Having said that, there is much evidence to support the premise that failure can lead to success. Abraham Lincoln has to be the poster child for experiencing failure after failure before finally being elected President and masterfully leading the United States through it's most gut-wrenching experience. Were his failures a waste? He may have thought so at the time. In retrospect, it's clear that he was learning what he needed to learn in order to do his greatest work.

The innovation experts also encourage us to embrace failure as part of the creative process. Innovation Truth number 2 is apparently "pay people to fail" (if I wasn't having so much fun trying not to fail, I'd find me one of those jobs). And one of the things that makes Silicon Valley the hot bed of technology and business innovation is its willingness to forgive failures as long as one eventually succeeds.

Also intriguing to me, is the concept that those who don't do it for the money may be more innovative. Seth Godin did a post on the topic and named several individuals and companies as examples. He says, "when you try to make a profit from your innovation, you stop innovating too soon." Most of us have no option but to make a profit from our innovation because we have to support ourselves (those consistent market forces at work). But, if that weren't the case, would profit no longer be how we keep score? And would what we call business failure (lack of profit) no longer be a failure?

Final thought. If failure is so likely and there are valid benefits from it, why don't we plan for it?

"So how's work?"

"Well, I'm halfway through my failures. The first one was really something. We pulled out all the stops and completely 'crashed and burned' as they say. I'm hoping to get my second failure wrapped up by the end of next year so I can get on to my successful venture. This one is giving us some real trouble right now."


"Well our customers keep telling others about us, so we're selling more and even worse--we're making a profit!"

"Ah, I wouldn't worry about it. I'm sure you'll figure out a way to turn it into a failure. Have you thought about bringing in a few consultants?"

It's ridiculous I know, but sport teams practice, doctors do internships, and entrepreneurs jump right into the real game--there is no practice. Sure you can work for someone else and learn, but until you actually jump in and start doing it yourself, it's not real. And here is the really interesting thing: what makes it "real?" The risk of failure. Take away the risk of failure-- of losing your resources, your livelihood, your dream--and I guarantee you that you won't learn as much, you won't try as hard and you likely won't accomplish anything great.

Though we work like crazy to avoid it, the risk of failure is an integral part of being an entrepreneur and something that most of us will get a chance to face in one way or another. With that in mind, here are my 10 Tips to Deal with Failure:

  1. Avoid it--winning is so much funner than losing.
  2. Embrace it--when it does happen, quit avoiding it. You went through all the pain to get there, now accept the fact that it happened and learn everything you can from it so that you'll be in a better position to succeed at number 1.
  3. Never End on it--failure is only fatal to your career if you let it be.
  4. Uh...can't think of anymore. Rats--failed again!
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Best of Seeds 10/1/06 to 10/7/06

October 1st to the 7th, 2006

From Seeds of Growth--Wanna Listen to a Good Story?"
We created our first podcast this week. They're forecasting 56 million podast listeners by 2010. Worth figuring out. You can listen to ours now and try to imagine what a really good one sounds like while you listen.

From Other Business Blogs

Number 3-- Getting Into Heaven from Seth Godin.
Seth points us to the website mouseprint focused on the sleazy things marketers will do to trick people. Did you know each of the 1,000 sheets in Scott's "Now Improved" toilet paper are only 3.7 inches--not 4? I knew something was missing! The point is consumers are smarter and have access to more information than ever before. Don't try to trick them.

Number 2--Motivating Others: why "It's good for you" doesn't work from Creating Passionate Users.
In addition to not tricking them, you might want to try to appeal to their feelings. People don't make decisions based on cold logic, but on feelings. "Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear." So how do you get your customers to associate your product or service with joy?

Number 1--Happy Birthday Beans from
It's about seeds, how could we not pick this one? Want something unique to send to your customer's on their next birthday? How about a laser-engraved bean? Your message--growing!

Now get back to work!
Best of Seeds is a service of Promoterz--Happy Customers Talking

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Seeds from the blogworld
We search the business blog world looking for posts that illustrate principles, or "Seeds", that if followed, or "planted", will help small businesses grow. We list them here for your convenience. Enjoy.
I grew up in the west and now live in Arizona. There is a simple rule for growing things out here (this rule applies everywhere but is more obvious in the arid west): if it doesn't get water it does ...more.
After describing modern consumers and their desire to watch or read what they want, when they want, the current issue of Business Week concludes: The result: a serious case of attention deficit for ...more.
What is the most compelling thing about your business from your customers' perspective? Is it remarkable? ...more.
Another example of the power of promoters. Shade Clothing sells undershirts for women that are longer than normal for those that aren't interested in showing the world their belly button. It was fou ...more.
I read recently about a musician--a cello player to be exact--that moved to New York City. She didn't know anyone in the city and was looking for opportunities to play her cello. Her solution? She ...more.
I read a great article recently about George Washington. As I read about his amazing leadership characteristics it occurred to me that they are the same characteristics any entrepreneur or business l ...more.
On the company the effect is like being assimilated into the Borg, but for users of their software it's like having a friend with a malignant brain tumor. You're going to have to say "goodbye" soon t ...more.
What says summer more than traveling carnivals? Cotton candy, hot dogs, rides that go around and around until you puke! Does life get any better than that? I submit that it cannot! The blog worl ...more.
Remarkable is the key here. These native american kids are remarkable in and of themselves. Their product follows suit. They have figured out government issues, food serving issues, product, marketi ...more.
In the cluttered marketplace we compete in, I don't think the power (and necessity) of staying in touch can be overemphasized. I learned the lesson again last week--thankfully in a good way. It had ...more.