I Want to Grow Opportunities with Apps

apps

I saw this recent statistic to date for number of apps for my Apple devices at 2.2 million and 2.8 million for Google Play! It blows my mind how much technology is available for every average person out there with a thought and a click. We got here fast.

When you look at these numbers, do you think creating one more app will be much value? How would you get through all the noise to even be noticed? You might find a micro niche that has been undiscovered. Or you could try and unseat a current app leader in a category. Tough game either way to bet on, especially when the proposition of free or $0.99 apps are expected. We’re app snobs these days and want extreme power with no cost.

But you could take a look at the bigger picture. Much like electricity is a commodity that we don’t give much thought towards, apps have come to be a sort of utility. We use them for travel, productivity, banking, entertainment and many other uses.

How do you grow opportunities with all these apps, however? What if you want to produce rather than consume? The use case for this supercomputer in your pocket can surely go far beyond checking out or checking in.

If you want to grow opportunities with apps, here are some ideas and strategies that gets you thinking about the game of increase:

  1. Networking. If you extend your inbox to include participating in forums or Quora, you can play a game every day. Give a great idea or connection every day. See if you can be a matchmaker and make new friends by giving substantive value. Push your mind and creativity. See if that translates to deal making.
  2. Build teams. Start a project that has a money-making goal. Keep it small. Use an app to add people to the conversation and actions. Move the ball forward with leadership and project management. See if you can set the next steps forward using distributed talent around the globe. You’ll have picked up the skill of managing virtual teams. You might consider Basecamp, Slack or Upwork to drive this initiative and make an ROI the goal.
  3. Curate. If you keep tabs on trends, products, food, technology or other natural interests, find a way to make a daily post on a platform. See if you can turn that into a transaction. Work with those vendors you respect. Become a trusted, curated resource. Build relationships with your audience and your product vendors to find where the deal making lies.
  4. Encourage. Life is tough and most people are carrying around a lot of worries, concerns and problems. Use an app that would facilitate the process of encouragement. Find inspirations, apt quotes, solutions and answers that would help people. Make it easy for yourself to connect the encouragement with the person that needs it.

You are not going to have a million apps on your device. But you can think about what you are doing with your time and attention and think a bit bigger than mere consumption. What if you could turn that powerful middleware someone created and get resourceful to turn the tech into opportunity building? It starts with a purpose.

Growth Hacking with Testing in These 6 Sales Channels

saleschannels.jpg

Selling your products or services today in an overcrowded, inattentive marketplace has a high degree of difficulty for sure. You may have the best offering, but what does that mean if you can’t connect and get people to pay attention?

If you break down sales into channels and testing, you can create a growth hacking strategy which helps you pick the best option for going to market.

You have a limited set of ways to sell:

  1. Direct selling. You may need to build a sales team, manage them, pay them and get them to use a CRM to track what is going on. Very difficult but may be worth it for control and engagement.
  2. Social media selling. Consistency is the key here. You don’t just show up and simply sell. You have to get people to tune in by subscribing or liking. Your posts and tweets have a half life so being continuous and consistent is critical.
  3. Affiliate networks. Sharing commissions and incentivizing using the carrot are your tools. You have to spread your net wide knowing most people are good for a deal here or there because of the lack of control and commitment.
  4. Paid advertising. You can immediately post ads on Facebook, Twitter and Google Adwords. But you have to set up process, analyze conversions and refine the sales funnel continuously to find the optimum points.
  5. Networking. Business is people and developing relationships works. But it takes time and attention. It doesn’t fit with all products but it does fit with a large amount. People are so busy they don’t want to stop and meet for lunch, coffee or networking events. Time is precious. Networking in a way that respects time is what works today.
  6. Organic sales conversion.  Knowing your numbers, getting found and converting on each step in a sales funnel to create predictability is a long game but has payoff. You have to use predictive analytics and understand behaviors.

If you break your business model down to these six options for selling, assess how people could buy your product and service naturally, then you can start testing a model on a small scale and take it to its logical end.

Your growth hacking strategy is to design a good test for the selling strategy you think applies to come to a conclusion on where to go big in your selling approach.

What sales strategy can you test on a small scale to find out what to commit to?

Find the Disproportionate Sales Channel

transmediale.10 White Noise Žilvinas Kempinas

The power law is alive and well. If you have not figured it out already and are one of those souls insisting in a flatter, linear and evenly distributed world, your aspirations might be highly elusive and frustrating.

For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. ~ Matthew 25:29

The natural world shows us repeatedly that there is disproportionate reward. It’s hard to embrace this if on the one had we are looking for stasis – routines, monthly mortgage payments, stable food prices, predictable friendships. We can set up our businesses and life to have constants.

However, that can be in vain if we see continuous volatility as we are today. What worked a few years ago is irrelevant and does not work so well today. And the speed by which obsolescence is occurring has left many well-intentioned people left wondering what happened.

There are channels that work right now. It may not be forever, but looking for where the currents are moving is a much better strategy than grinding out a sale here or there. It’s better than simply working harder and hoping nothing changes.

Look where people are buying in your market. Look at how they are buying. Then set up the deals, sales process and positioning to work in that disproportionate space.

This is strategic thinking. You have to use your powers of observations rather than an insistence on what may have happened in the past or how you think it should work. There’s only reality served on a cold plate.

There is a disproportionate sales channel that will work much better if you stop and think it through.

What do you think it is or moving towards in your industry?

The 3 Most Natural Entrepreneurial Traits

Are entrepreneurs born or made? Yes.

They are both. I see those that walk that arduous journey strive well, but if you don’t have the natural traits then it’s a lot more work to be aware of your weaknesses.

Ultimately, entrepreneurship is about decision making. And your natural instincts, especially under stress, will drive your next 100 decisions in a completely different direction than someone who is wired different from you.

Some people are more wired to be workers. They are comfortable taking direction and working within an offense that is well defined. Workers are important around execution.

Then there are managers. They organize ideas and use resources efficiently whether it’s people, technology or budgets.

But the entrepreneurs are a different breed. They are comfortable with ambiguity and are thinking big while working small. The challenge of dealing with uncertainty and risk requires a special instinct around keeping the goal clearly in mind and making sense of the ever changing landscape of uncertainty.

Can I turn someone into an entrepreneur? No. That’s a journey that someone who is not naturally wired has to choose. It will be harder.

But, I can tell you the kinds of business coaching clients that are the easiest to work with. They have these 3 natural traits:

  1. High Cognitive Ability. They think conceptually and strategically. It’s not the day-to-day thinking, it’s the ability to see the invisible and be comfortable with ambiguity. This is a measurable quality. Thinking in terms of ideas, principles and how today’s actions relates to a future vision keeps steadiness in the journey towards something that has to be forced into existence. These are not practical people. They are idealistic. We have plenty of practical people that take the entrepreneurs’ ideas and use them because they work. High cognitive thinkers are unnatural and disruptive.
  2. High Goal Orientation. High goal people are easy to work with. They can handle many different goals and move them to scale. Scaling is critical in the path and being able to see what the most important priorities to deliver on is a natural real-time instinct that high goal people have. They want to set direction, not necessarily take direction. They are always thinking about leverage and knocking out big goals. They work asymmetrically in seasons of high intensity and rest.
  3. Low Detail Bent. Entrepreneurs want to see how things work and start, but they are looking to delegate. Technicians hold on. Low detail people look for resources to get things they know work done so they can move onto further innovation, discovery and trail blazing. They can settle for lower quality to move the bigger milestones. They don’t like to waste time and value being able to move with action rather than overanalyze something that is largely known.

These traits are inherent. We all have different brains and the way we see the world and move in it is innate from how we are wired.

Over thousands and thousands of hours coaching owners and executives, I have seen anyone with these natural bents move towards innovating with much more ease than those that might lack the hard wiring.

Are you on the entrepreneurial journey or considering it? Consider taking this strengths test and let’s have a discussion to see why you would or would not do well at entrepreneurship.

A Great Trash Can

trash can
Perhaps one of most important productivity tools (From Flickr album of happyyball)

Staying clear and ready are the most important productivity mindsets you can nurture. You do not know what is coming at you tomorrow, next week or next month for that matter. The world has a way of pushing work onto you.

Most of the things that come into your life will end up in the trash. Whether that happens within five seconds or five days is a function of your decision making and clarity.

Here’s a tip that will go a long way towards your productivity – get a great trash can you love. It can inspire you to take the most frequent action you will take.

Here are a few ways to use the trash:

  • Direct mail. Any irrelevant marketing needs to be ripped and trashed right away. Don’t let it sit out. It’s indecision.
  • Bills. Set up bill payments and trash them.
  • Documents for records. Get a scanner and use it. File it in your Google Docs and have access to your file cabinet wherever you are in the world.
  • Unused items. If you haven’t used it in the last year, trash it. You likely won’t miss it.
  • Gifts. Yes, just because someone sent you something that just doesn’t work for you, show appreciation by taking a picture, sending them a shot with you in it and use the trash.

Love your trash can. We live in a world of too much input. If you this simple tool as part of your default decision-making process, it will keep you clear and ready for whatever is coming at you in this chaotic world. You will also grow in how you execute. This creates space for peace of mind and getting things done.

So, what kind of trash can are you going to use?

Why You Don’t Publish A Magazine

Hard to copy something of high quality

On the web there is a lot of copying. I can see evidence of copying from business partners, customers and competitors of my marketing consultancy, AscendWorks. Some comfort themselves by saying it is the highest form of flattery. I disagree. If you tell the person and credit them, it is entirely different than if you silently steal.

The internet blurs a lot of our thinking about such issues. Yet, we can visually see and experience masterpieces across the web. High class websites vs. something built on a GoDaddy editor is apparent. The feeling of trust or mistrust we have tracks with the fidelity of the systems we see.

We can see others blogging, then we sign up for a free blogging site. Little do we know that the form factor we see soon turns into work. It may be easy to set up, but it’s hard to keep going. You have to actually think, have ideas and provide value to the world. Otherwise you are ignored and marginalized.

When you look at a magazine, you can see photos and articles. There is an entire organization, process and production system behind what you hold in your hands. The magazine is simply ink, cut paper and staples. That’s the commodity.

The value is the content. The pictures, articles and layout all take work. You can sense this when you see it intuitively. Thus, very few people attempt to replicate what magazines deliver. They set the bar high with quality and the experience becomes irreducible.

You don’t want to deal with the hassle and cost to copy a Time magazine or Fast Company. It’s too much work, thought and ultimately, leadership.

So the question is, how do you become irreducible? If you are easily copied, then your value in the new economy is only a copy away.

However, if you can provide accessible value with fidelity that exceeds the convenience factor for others who are unwilling to do the work and pay the price, then you can insulate yourself from the effects of commoditization the internet lends itself towards.

What are your thoughts?

Don’t Waste Attention

8 ball
Flickr Photo By thezephyrsong_tzs

What happens when you get a thousand followers on Twitter, Facebook or any other social media platform? How does this convert monetarily, if at all?

You don’t have to dig too deep to see the various motives on the platforms you participate in. Some play a game to make as many friends as possible. Friend is a misguided term for many of the connections. They wouldn’t welcome you to their home much less for lunch if you asked. However, they can buttress the illusion of popularity.

As we ride the waves of social media, our demeanors are changing. Having too many people you follow can make you look shallow rather than substantive. Not enough engagement makes you less relevant. We have become calibrated and deciphering.

Popularity is one metric, but it’s a difficult one to attain and maintain in all the noise. I am looking for both return on investment and return on attention. Make it worthwhile to invest your attention and time or else don’t engage.

I continually see unfinished and uncommitted projects, tools and systems laying around from people and businesses I work with. The fad pulls us in. We like the thrill. Then the thrill wears off or loses our attention. It becomes work, and ultimately perseverance.

I would advise signing up for less software, less social media and less time sucks. And what you do sign up for do the following:

  • Explore. Understand how the complete system works. Knowing the boundaries helps to orient you.
  • Master. Experiment and work hard to master the nuances, tricks and shortcuts. You should be extremely productive with whatever tools make their way into your life.
  • Commit. You have to be a giver to get today. Provide as much value as possible. This means you have to be valuable. If you cannot find it in yourself to give much, then you are likely not motivated enough to keep things going.
  • Assess. Just because something worked doesn’t mean it will always work, especially today. Things change. Priorities change. Ask yourself why you are doing something. If the meaning and enthusiasm are not there, then consider disengaging.

At a base level, our intuition can inform us when something is or is not working. You can only commit and focus on a few things. Make them count. Be a cold hard judge and miser of your time and look for profitability. Then you are not wasting the world’s time or your own reputation.

What do you think?

Interruptions Destroy Productivity

As attention gets scarce, and the ability for everyone to push communications and work onto us is easy, our productivity is greatly affected. It is not uncommon for emails and calls to go without response. Furthermore, there are a lot of projects which suffer from interruptions from our computer screens or from office distractions. It is epidemic.

I have been studying John Medina’s Brain Rules and his comment,

“Studies show that a person who is interrupted takes 50 percent longer to accomplish a task. Not only that, he or she makes up to 50 percent more errors.”*

From experience, I think we know this. Medina helps us to understand the neuroscience behind it. When we shift our attention, our brain walks through a four-step process to refocus. It happens every time we are distracted and it has a cost. It is unavoidable. We are not multi-taskers by nature.

When we have familiarity with certain subject areas, the errors are reduced, however, the same mechanism and process governs us all.

Our ability to focus without distractions can be an enormous differentiator in today’s knowledge economy. I have seen the fruits of it in several areas:

  • Execution. Clients that have challenges getting things done have hired me to align teams, tasks and deadlines as well as deliver. This is a struggle when distractions pull people in organizations in different directions.
  • Strategy. It is difficult to get clear. Facilitating a focused dialogue and process for an aligned strategy is pretty common. What needs to be done has to be defined and this is difficult in environments prone to distractions and interruptions.
  • Creativity. New ideas and ways to do things are abundant. However, if our attention is continually being gnawed at, who has time for such explorations? Creativity ultimately gets sacrificed for the mundane.

These are three broad areas. If you are able to focus and get things done, the world will present opportunities as others who struggle on this one area pay a cost in lost opportunity.

As you look at your typical workday, consider ways to minimize the distractions. Open only one window. Look at email just twice a day. Be unavailable for other periods. I can promise you that you will create more space and time to get the real work done and, in effect, become more valuable to others.

What kind of steps can you take towards reducing your distractions?

*Medina, John (2010-07-06). Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (Kindle Locations 1210-1211). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

Uncertainty

We are certainly in uncertain times. I enjoyed Mauldin’s recent essay, “Who Took My Easy Button?” He shares some insightful information on the difficult and unyielding choices we face as a nation that have already played out in other countries like Greece and likely Italy.

Another great capture can be found in Hugh MacLeod’s cartoon and post, The Era of Prosperity-on-Autopilot is over. The people that feel threatened are the ones on the middle. The rule followers, managers and good girls and boys are finding dry wells in their pursuits.

If you are talented and know what you are doing, these are exciting times. Uncertainty leads to remarkable opportunities. If you know how to do a good job someone else tells you, well, it’s going to be a hard time. You are looking for certainty and the world is not going to that place of predictability and comfort any time soon. Old paradigms and structures are changing continually. We don’t do things like we did five years ago, much less a year ago.

Creating Opportunity

If you want to become irrelevant, simply stay still. The world around you will help you quickly towards this end. If you want to find opportunity and grow in the midst of uncertainty, here a few ways to make it happen:

  • Dream. Now is the time to imagine how things could be better. Envision what is possible. Your dreams pull you.
  • Move. You cannot discover by standing still and overanalyzing. Try things. Fail forward. Be bold. Iteration is a great strategy for tuning into possibilities.
  • Aim. When you find things don’t work, repoint. Change where you are pointing. Keep aiming and re-aiming to find the target.
  • Embrace. When you find things that work, incorporate them into your life and work. Build around it. Create a foundation and build. This may mean letting go of something old.

The goal is not to create certainty. It is to be comfortable in the uncertainty of reality. The alternative is to live in denial and fear. That is not living. It’s hiding.

The world is looking for new answers. Perhaps your uncertainty will catalyze you to new opportunities.

What do you think?

Finding The Use Case

Use Case
Photo from P^2 - Paul's Flickr

The shear volume of options available to us today is daunting. It’s hard to imagine new products and services finding validity in many cases. On the other hand, inventors can get excited and focus too much on their breakthrough technology without figuring out how to monetize it.

Ultimately, great technologies, systems and innovations have to find a specific use case. They have to serve a specific purpose and find appeal with either a mass or niche audience. Many of the things we use have become valuable based on our use cases – how we use the technology to get things done or get pleasure. This goes for Twitter, iPhones and solar panels. They need to find a market which uses the technology in a specific, adapted way.

Finding the use case is the hard work entrepreneurs do. It legitimizes ideas and pushes them into reality.  It’s a process of iteration and paying attention. Here are some ways to helping what you perceive as wonderful become likewise for a broader audience:

  • Underdesign. Don’t overengineer or overdesign. Use prototypes to test an idea. The temptation to make something perfect before putting it in front of users, customers or beta groups can cost you in waste. If the idea doesn’t connect, then the work is lost. Furthermore, you want to see what the reaction is to the core, not the embroidery.
  • Take small risks. Pick audiences that can provide fair feedback and react without your guidance or input. It is more risk, but you get candor.
  • Observe, observe, observe. Watch what people do. If they tend to gravitate towards a feature of functionality in a way you did not envision, then see if it happens with others. It may show you that your form factor lends itself to a completely different use case or path than you envisioned. Note the observations. It can open up new opportunities.
  • Fail quickly. As you get feedback, then change quickly. Build, test, change, retest. Each iteration should help you get to the niche use case you are seeking. It’s hard to guess. It’s better to navigate the nuance and keep tweaking to reality.

There are your ideas. Then there is reality. The ability to iterate is easier today than ever with digital assets, access to audiences and the shear knowledge from others’ failures. Keep your mind open and watch how markets tell you what they want and will do with what you can offer.

Is there a use case you can imagine for what you do? What is it?