Are You a Purple Cow? – marketing in the new world

23 08 2009
it’s safer to
be risky –to fortify your desire to do truly amazing things.
Once you see that the old ways have nowhere to go but
down, it becomes even more imperative to create things
worth talking about.

I’ve just been reading Seth Godin‘s marketing masterpiece Purple Cow. The style of the book, with short and to-the-point chapters and case studies, provides a very readable, crisp and thought-provoking account. Below are some assorted notes and favourite parts.

Seth talks about BEING REMARKABLE as the biggest, and only, marketing strategy in the modern world. Simply advertising your product is not effective anymore as your potential clients and customers have learned to ignore the majority of marketing efforts. What you need is a unique and remarkable idea.

On the easiness of this task, Seth argues:

I don’t think there’s a shortage of remarkable ideas. I think your business has plenty of great opportunities to do great things. Nope, what’s missing isn’t the ideas. It’s the will to execute them.

What Seth talks about here is the idea economy. Ideas – new and fresh – are what separates you from the competition. Only with the ideas can you market your product effectively. That’s why companies seek creative people – employees that can provide the necessary edge and “remarkable” new perspective. Thinking is important.

He continues:

It’s safer to be risky –to fortify your desire to do truly amazing things. Once you see that the old ways have nowhere to go but down, it becomes even more imperative to create things worth talking about.

———————————–

Seth also concentrates on who your audience are when you come up with remarkable ideas. He stresses the “early adopters,”

who can actually benefit from using a new product and who are eager to maintain their edge over the rest of the population by seeking out new products and services.

These people are your most important group. Firstly, they may be the buyers or users of your new product. Secondly, they are the idea-leaders of the rest of the population. The majority of people are followers. They wait out the first rush and only after they’ve heard recommendations from the early adopters will they choose to engage with the new thing.

This point is especially important when you take into account the sudden sky-rocket spread of social media in recent months. If you own a business or are launching a product, you want to be able to use these. The modern word-of-mouth recommendations appear on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Sure, face-to-face contacts are still the most powerful but imagine the reach a recommendation on Twitter can have if the individual has thousands of followers who believe his taste and credentials. And then add Re-Tweeting to the equation. The results are amazing.

——————————

How do you break into the market? Specialize!

The way you break through to the mainstream is to target a niche instead of a huge market. With a niche, you can segment off a chunk of the mainstream, and create an ideavirus so focused that it overwhelms that small slice of the market that really and truly will respond to you.

You still need your great idea. But at least you’re not trying to eat the whole elephant at once.

—————————–

How can you apply this strategy to a job-seeking individual?

The secret doesn’t lie in the job-seeking technique. It has to do with what these people do when they’re not looking for a job. These Purple Cows do an outrageous job. They work on high-profile projects. These people take risks, often resulting in big failures. These failures rarely lead to a dead end, though. They’re not really risks, after all. Instead, they just increase the chances that these people will get an even better project next time.

So go out and try and be unique. Build your remarkable badge. This is Seth’s advice which is still very timely. Network your way to better opportunities, get the most out of each one of them, take on extra tasks. Build your personal brand and become the Purple Cow yourself. Can you do it?

For some pointers watch Seth give a TEDTalk about standing out.

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What If You Had 15 Extra Hours Every Month?

22 08 2009

Andy Robinson who writes about career success at his blog recently published a post about Getting 15 Extra Hours Every Month for Personal Transformation. He writes:

“What would you do if you were “given” 15 extra hours each month? We’re talking about more than four weeks of extra PERSONAL time each year! What would be the highest and best use of that time?”


How do you get this time?

Andy suggests that you set your alarm clock to wake you up 30 minutes earlier than normal tomorrow. And then continue this habit day after day.

In this way you’re cutting down on your sleep (although you may go to bed early and thus balance your sleeping time).

Other ways of gaining 30 minutes a day may include:

  • cutting down on time spent watching TV (or at least recording your favourite programmes and shows and then watching them without commercials)
  • committing to actually GET UP when your alarm clock rings instead of lying in and then rushing
  • getting organised
  • using your commute time to do productive things
  • getting ready for your day the night before
  • not procrastinating

What to do with your 15 hours a month?

Andy suggests you use your 30 minutes a day for highly personal time (journaling, meditation, inspirational reading or planning your day).

But I believe that your extra 15 hours a month could be used in hundreds of ways, depending on what your priorities are. Use them to:

  • learn a new skill and advance your career
  • learn or improve your knowledge of a foreign language (daily practice is your best bet)
  • read for pleasure
  • read to keep up with your and other fields
  • watch interesting talks from outstanding people (try TEDTalks or Fora.TV)
  • get some exercise
  • find a blog in your field and read it
  • do anything that your normal day doesn’t allow

If the only thing stopping you from doing something is your (perceived) lack of time, give serious thought to these strategies and start changing your life today.





Get your life organized! — Evernote

21 08 2009

This is a first post in a series on useful tools to get your life organized.


Now, just a quick disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Evernote or their products, just a satisfied user eager to share some tips.

I do have to admit, however, that I am a bit of an “organisation geek” or, put in a more sophisticated way: a person with a penchant for being organised. I look for systems. I look for ways to make my workflow faster. I look for optimization of current procedures and often spend long hours planning. Take me into a stationer’s store and I’ll spend at least one hour browsing it and seeing what’s on offer. Devising new ways to make my life easier and more efficient is what I enjoy. This has often brought new opportunities ( – it naturally pushed me into a manager role in my highschool and has proved essential in my position in the student council in my college or when organising a big charity event). It may sometimes be annoying to others but, much more often, I am in a position to help them get their everyday tasks at least a little more organised.

On to today’s theme…

The first tool that I want to introduce to you is Evernote.

Evernote is useful especially for managing your “little tidbits” of information. Phone numbers on little pieces of paper. Sudden waves of genius and ideas that do not fit anywhere else in your computer directory. Webclips from an article you think may be useful at some point. Evernote is perfect for storing all of these. It is easy to use, has both an online and offline version (so your notes sync across platforms) and is available to both Mac and Windows users. You can tag your notes and the database is fully searchable making sure you never lose that important piece of information that you wrote down yesterday but can’t remember how you called it.

Just give it a try and maybe you’ll find that having one place to store all these little tidbits will save you hours of frustration and crying over spilt milk.

Find out about Evernote’s secret (hint: elephant cloud):

Do you have experience with Evernote? Leave a comment…





Have you done your homework?

20 08 2009

Maybe you have been out of school for a long time. The days of sweating over homework the night before it’s due or finishing that assignment just at the last minute are probably gone. But do such experiences ever completely disappear? No, they don’t. And it wouldn’t be advantageous to you if they did. Why?

The meaning of homework

In school, homework was always set to move you a bit forward. An assignment with mathematical problem sets is designed to help you revise what you did in class, test your knowledge and maybe point to several areas which still need more practice. Homework is essentially a control system – a preparation for further improvements and gains. In school it allowed you to look at things in more detail and maybe gain new bits of information that helped with absorbing the following advanced subject matter. I’m not claiming that homework is universally a good tool and should be (over)used. But on a general level, it often has the advantage of allowing a person to ensure better gains from further opportunities to learn.

Homework outside school

In life we come across many situations that require “homework-like” preparation. And often these are key to improving our standing or raising our chances of gaining more in the long run.

EXAMPLE:

Looking for a job is a clear example of a situation where “doing your homework” is almost essential.

  • take care to write and then constantly update your resumé/CV:

Crafting a complete and representative CV detailing your qualifications and competencies takes time. A lot of time. Yet this initial investment pays off very highly especially since, after the first push, updating is usually much less time-consuming. So take the time to think through all that you’ve done in the past and make an inventory of activities, competencies and results that could make you a perfect fit for a job advertisement. Then tailor your CV for every application.

  • research the company before you make an application

Spend time on researching the company and position that you are applying for. This could separate you from the tens of applicants who will have posted general mass CVs expecting to be called for an interview simply on the basis of a non-tailored and (from the hiring manager’s perspective) nothing-saying piece of paper. Look for news in major newspapers. Use google or new social media like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. What has the company done in the past few months? What is their position on the market? Why are they better than the competition? Why do you want to work for them? Investing 30 minutes of your time could save you the opportunity to actually receive an invitation for an interview.

  • send in a cover letter with your CV

Take the time to actually send a non-generic cover letter with every CV you send out. This may limit the number of positions you can apply for. But it will raise your chances for getting an interview at those that you do choose by a large percentage. Cover letters, tailored to the specific company and showing how your skills match the requirements of the positions as well as your interest in the company, will take you a great lenght further than hundreds of non-specific CVs.

“Doing your homework” still applies long after you’ve left school and can increase your chances of getting better opportunities and open a lot of doors. So have you been doing your homework recently? Maybe it’s time to start! Success if about more than just showing up.





Do you have a BUCKET LIST?

19 08 2009

In my previous post, I argued that having and rigidly following a “life plan” may not always be the best strategy to get everything out of life. Nevertheless, I will be the first to admit that there is something magical about knowing what you want out of life and having a sort of check-list that you can consult and see how you’re doing on the virtual scoreboard. This is where the idea of a bucket list comes in.

What is a bucket list?

A bucket list serves as a constant reminder of what you want out of life. It is simply a list of things, activities and experiences you want to get or do before you “kick the bucket”. (See The Bucket List (2007) with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson for some inspiration.) Ever wanted to make that roadtrip? Are there some places that you’ve always dreamed of visiting? Are you planning to learn a foreign language? All these should go on your bucket list!

How do you make a bucket list?

Starting, as always, is the hardest part. The only things you need to make a bucket list are pen, paper and a bit of time. Now sit down and think. Write down anything that comes to your mind when you ponder the question: “What do you want to do before you die?” What are your secret crazy dreams? What do you wish you had enough money to do? How would you spend your days if you had nothing to worry about?

The most important thing: WHY should you have a bucket list?

Firstly, it forces you to think about what you want to gain out of life? What do you really want to do or experience? Through the simple act of writing it you gain clarity about what your future regrets may be. Avoid those. It’s still time and maybe you’ll surprise yourself when all those secret dreams suddenly start getting clearer outlines.

Most importantly, however, writing your bucket list will move you considerably closer towards accomplishing your dreams and wishes. How? As most goal-setters know, the simple act of writing down your goals counts as the first (and hardest) step. You are more likely to accomplish something when you know it’s one of your goals and you keep a visual record of it somewhere close.

If you’re interested in learning more about making bucket lists then this post may be another great starting point. Also check out BBC’s 50 Things to Do Before You Die.





Look beyond your life plan

15 08 2009

I was a very lucky child. I had a wonderful family, parents who loved me and a nice house to live in. My family took me and my brothers on trips across the Czech Republic, my dad read to us before we went to sleep and my mum later homeschooled us to show us that learning is about something different than just being bored at school. Such bringing up helped me in many regards. I took up extensive reading, saw the value of higher education and began on my journey of self-improvement and discovery.

My bringing up, in some regards, certainly gave me a headstart on the journey of discovering all the opportunities that this world presents. Nevertheless, it was still grounded in the everyday constraints that we experience. Coming from a little town in the Southeast Czech Republic, I felt like a lot was determined by where I lived. I went to primary school in my hometown and then switched to homeschooling for Grade 5, only to start commuting the following year to the only grammar school in the area. If you wanted to go to university later on, this was the school to go to. (there was another school, but twice the length away). So I commuted to this school…for eight years. It wasn’t a bad school, don’t  get me wrong. It was just average.

My life plan was straightforward

And it seemed to fit in with the expectations everyone had. As I was thinking about my future life, my plan was always simple and clear. I had it all figured out. I would finish highschool and go to university in Brno or Prague. Most of my classmates would do the same so I would have a nice nest of friends somewhere near and go home every other weekend to see my family. I would finish easily (academics was always my hobby so I wasn’t worried about failing), maybe spend a semester abroad somewhere in Europe or the US, and then find a nice job in the city and live my life. Enter husband, kids and a nice house some years later and boom, living a comfortable life just like everyone else I knew.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this scenario. It’s very comforting in the least and I’m sure I would have been quite happy if everything had turned out according to this life plan. Maybe your plan is very similar to this one. Maybe not.

Can life plans be dangerous?

What I want to point out in this post, however, are the dangers of living by your life plan. What if you’re missing something remarkable? What if you’re missing the opportunity of your life simply by following this mindset and not even bothering to try and do something different? The other ideas may sound crazy. They may sound impossible and they may be way over the top of your head. But what if they could change the whole course of your life?

For me the breaking point was a meeting at a student conference in Barcelona. On a random ride on the Barcelona tube, a British boy was telling me about his decision-making process about applying to Oxford or Cambridge. Now, as some of you may not know, you can only apply to one of these in any given year and this boy was letting me in on his thoughts about both universities. I quietly swallowed and held my breath. This was the first time I ever met somebody who was even thinking about applying to Oxbridge, let alone attending one of these universities. I was just standing there in awe of this student, all of a sudden feeling somewhat small. You have to understand that for someone who has always been involved in academic stuff and other distinct signs of over-achieving, the sound of Cambridge or Oxford brought immediate respect and drooling. What I would have given for the chance to go to one of the best universities in the world.

Crazy and impossible?

In my little world, however, that was something unattainable. I was an average Czech girl, going to an average Czech highschool. There was NO way I could get into Cambridge. I didn’t go to private schools (like this British boy) and I hadn’t been preparing for these two universities for years either. It was just impossible and not even anything to think about.  And yet this boy, when he finished his pros and cons about each university, turned to me and asked: “So are you thinking of applying to Oxford or to Cambridge?” That simple and yet so unexpected question changed my life. Suddenly, this little thought or possibility started living in my mind. What if I really could get in? What if I dared to do something this crazy? What if? What if? What if? I got prospectuses and the more I was reading and thinking about it, the more I felt like I would regret not trying for the rest of my life. So I dediced to be crazy. I decided to apply to Cambridge even though I did not believe I could get in. I got all information, delved into learning abou the British higher education system and application forms, improved my English and studied for certificates, learned how to write essays and much more. All on my own because there was simply no one in my circle or area who could help me.

And the impossible became possible. I got an offer from Cambridge University and have been studying there for 2 years. All this just because I actually tried and did not let myself get derailed and discouraged by the craziness of the idea. Big crazy things are sometimes the best that life brings. And your life plan will not incorporate those. Maybe it’s time to look beyond it.

What now?

So I dare you to do something different today. Give a little more thought to that crazy idea you had a couple days ago. What is one thing you always secretly thought about doing but never found the courage to actually give it a try? Then do it. It probably will not be easy and it may very well be scary. But you need to give it a try. The worst thing that can happen is that it won’t work out. Then you can at least spend your life knowing that you tried!