I haven’t posted here yet this week in part because I’ve been distracted with posts elsewhere. One of them is about the value of saying no in sales, one is a refresher on fundamentals of lean planning, one is looking at the future of brand marketing and content, and the fourth is a pure fiction riff on current events.
- My post Why Saying no can be a Great Sales Tool appeared today on the American Express OPEN forum. With a wave at “flim-flam” sales, long-term success in sales is about listening and matching what the customer needs to what you offer. The secret is that sometimes you have to say no because you don’t really have something to sell that will solve the problem; and in that case, saying no is better than trying to win the sale that will produce a disappointed customer.
- My post Fundamentals of Lean Business Planning appeared yesterday on the Small Business Administration (SBA) Managing a Business blog. My readers here will be familiar with these fundamentals. I have a series of related posts already here on this blog. My favorite is The Lean Business Plan as Dashboard and GPS.
- My post Adobe’s Loni Stark on the Future of Brands appeared yesterday on the Rebelmouse blog. Stark is senior director of strategy & product marketing at Adobe. She talked about the future of brands as content marketing becomes faster, better, and much more competitive.
- I posted It’s Only Twitter: What Could Happen on Medium yesterday. This one is off my beaten track, not the kind of thing I post on this blog. It’s a pure-fiction imagination of a moment that might have happened seven years ago, related to the current presidential election.
I like this a lot. In The only startup metrics that matter — Medium, Josh Elman, who has had upper echelon stints with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, writes:
“One of the things that I felt working on each of these is that we never looked at numbers or metrics in the abstract — total page views, logged in accounts, etc, but we always talked about users. More specifically, what they were doing and why they were doing it.”
That strikes me as very good advice. Get past the startup metrics for their own sake, and back into why. He continues:
How many people are really using your product? You need a metric that specifically answers this. It can be “x people did 3 searches in the past week”. Or “y people visited my site 9 times in the past month”. Or “z people made at least one purchase in the last 90 days.” But whatever it is, it should be a signal that they are using their product in the way you expected and that they use it enough so that you believe they will come back to use it more and more.
I confess that as I was growing Palo Alto Software I would occasionally, for some presentation or other, browse through available metrics as if reading a menu, and choose the one that made us look best. I liked steep curves in line charts, and inflection charts. And if page views didn’t show it, I’d look at users, or downloads, or conversions, or hits … until I found one that showed a curve I wanted to show.
I bet I’m not the only one. Josh’s suggestion makes a lot more sense.
I caught this one yesterday on Medium: Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast. It’s by Dare Obasanjo on Hacker Daily (great title, by the way). It’s a well-thought-out discussion of how Google and Facebook culture achieved a substantial shift of strategy in a way that others (Blockbuster facing Netflix, and Blackberry facing iPhone) couldn’t. Here’s the summary.
“when your strategy changes then your entire organizational culture will have to change as well. Your organizational culture is defined by what positive behaviors you encourage and what negative behaviors you tolerate. Blackberry couldn’t compete with Apple when teams were still motivated & rewarded for keeping corporate CIOs happy and there was no way Blockbuster could compete with Netflix when they fundamentally saw themselves as a classic retail video rental store and ignored the power of online experiences.”
That’s a good read. Dare collected details and presents them very well. There are some stories of interest there.
And it challenges an assumption that I’ve made for decades now, which is that large businesses are doomed to fail eventually because they become like big ships, unable to turn quickly, unable to react. I’ve seen IBM fall from the “Big Blue” industry giant of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s to another also-ran today (no offense, IBM). I’ve seen Microsoft fall from the king of the world in the middle-to-late 1990s to struggling to keep up today.
It seems so hard for big tech companies to sustain growth rates when sales run into the billions. Although this post argues against it, I would have thought that Google, Apple, and Facebook will eventually slow down because they are so big. But maybe not.
I’ve never been an employee of a big (thousands of employees, maybe tens of thousands) company but I’ve deal with them as consulting clients. What I thought I saw was that as they grew, middle managers and office politics took over, regardless of what top management wanted. Decision making slowed to a crawl, and the friction through the chains of management became impossible. The culture changed in ways top management couldn’t prevent. Go to an exciting startup and people are working at all hours. Go to a big company and they left at five. Or so it seemed to me.
Can Google, Apple, or Facebook buck that history? Are big tech companies doomed to decline. Live by tech, die by tech? Do they become too big not to fail?