May and June featured seven books bring the 2019 total to twenty-two.  My favorite of the bunch was Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption, by Ben Mezrich.  It’s a fast, fun read focusing on the Winklevoss twins and some wild west aspects of Bitcoin as it continually marches from the chaotic towards inching its way into the mainstream.  In their ‘second act’ the Winklevoss twins receive a positive depiction, in stark contrast to their unflattering portrayal in the movie The Social Network, which was based on Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires:  The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and BetrayalBitcoin Billionaires is written at the same pace of Bringing Down the House, Busting Vegas, Rigged and Ugly Americans(all enjoyable reads by the same author).

May & June Readings:

  1. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, by Steven Johnson
  2. Triggers: 30 Sales Tools You Can Use to Control the Mind of Your Prospect to Motivate, Influence and Persuade, by Joseph Sugarman
  3. Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption, by Ben Mezrich
  4. Overdeliver: Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketing, by Brian Kurtz
  5. How To Hire People Who Give A Sh*T: The Golden Rules, by Erika Weinstein
  6. Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life, by Rory Sutherland
  7. The Tangled Mind: Unraveling the Origin of Human Nature, by Nick Kolenda

There were thought provoking aspects to each book.  Triggers, written by Joseph Sugarman twenty years ago focuses on old style direct response, with many lessons still applicable today. Overdeliver discusses details of direct response that are often overlooked in the short-term oriented focus of some of today’s marketing.

Alchemy pushes you to question aggregate information (economists, big data etc).  Aggregately macro analysis is math based, but this does not necessarily hold in individual or smaller samples.  In math 1×10=10×1, however, in reality 10 people may be fooled once each, but it is unlikely to fool the same person 10 times.  Big data is fantastic, but you also need to question whether the data is depicting a false positive, versus actionable information.  It is important to potentially question the big data headline by examining the underlying data and how it was obtained.

The Tangled Mind is also an interesting read, although I would have preferred to dive deeper into a small number of areas, rather than continually stating results without digging deeper into the reasoning (beyond simply siting appropriate research).  The way data is presented and requested has a significant impact on the results received.  Researchers asked people to distribute financial aid to families and presented two different categorizations of income: survey 1 a) $15k or less, b) $15k-$30k, c) $30k-$45k, d) $46k-$60k, e) $60k-$75k; f) $75k+; survey 2 a) $75k or less, b) $75k-$85k, c) $85k-$100k, d) $100k-$120k, e) $120k-$145k, f) $145k or more. According to most economic theories, the results of both surveys should be the same, since participants are offered the same overall economic range on both surveys, but presentation can make a significant different.  In survey 1, participants allocated 96% of the money to families $75k or lower; however, in survey 2, only 48% was allocated to $75k or lower (due to the manner the options were depicted).  Thought provoking books are always worth reading, especially when they cause you to examine unexpected areas.

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement #Readings

April featured two books from marketing/strategy/business genres, as well as two books outside those arenas.  From the business side, Loonshots and Turning The Flywheel are worthwhile reads.  Loonshots: How To Nurture The Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, And Transform Industries, by Safi Bahcall presents several thought-provoking ideas. One concerns phase transition –  when water is above 32 it is purely liquid, at 32 degrees it may have pockets of liquid and pockets of ice, while a few degrees below 32 it is solid ice.  Loonshots relates phase transition to group behavior and how group think changes depending on size and dynamics.  Turning The Flywheel: Why Some Companies Build Momentum… And Other Don’t is a short companion book to Jim Collin’s Good To Great discussing the steps of building and maintaining a flywheel in which each step continually builds on the prior aspects to create continuous momentum for exponential long-term success.

From outside the business arena, two were more personal booksMensch Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi, Wisdom For Untethered Times, by Joshua Hammerman depicts how someone develops his personal perspectives.  It is brave to openly write about one’s life, and Mensch Marks is a very open look at his life, as well as man’s quest for continual improvement.  Rabbi Hammerman performed the wedding ceremony of my wife and I in Jerusalem in 2012, so his perspectives have additional personal meanings.  Cribsheet: a data-driven guide to better, more relaxed parenting from birth to pre-school, by Emily Oster, is an economist’s discussion of events from birth to the first few years of a baby’s life and an analysis of the data compiled from studies examining these various events.  As a numbers nerd, I take comfort in knowing the data associated with events and can theoretically utilize that information when making future decisions.  Some of the info was scary to learn, but it is better to be armed with the data to be able to make more informed decisions during potentially stressful times.

For coursework, April featured the re-watching of several sections of the Digital Marketing Program, by The Wharton School in collaboration with edX, which I originally completed in March.  In addition, Growth Hacking Foundations by Brad Batesole is a short worthwhile viewing.

Books:

  1. Mensch Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi, Wisdom For Untethered Times, by Joshua Hammerman
  2. Loonshots: How To Nurture The Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, And Transform Industries, by Safi Bahcall
  3. Turning The Flywheel: Why Some Companies Build Momentum… And Other Don’t, by Jim Collins
  4. Cribsheet: a data-driven guide to better, more relaxed parenting from birth to pre-school, by Emily Oster

Courses:

  1. LinkedIn Learning Course: Growth Hacking Foundations

It is hard to believe that 1/3 of 2019 has already past, but the pace to top 40 books for the year continues.  Let’s see what May brings.

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

The Amazon annual shareholder letter by Jeff Bezos is always full of fascinating information and perspective, especially the views on risk/reward experiments.  What Amazon has accomplished (and continues to accomplish) is mind-blowing.  The letter is inspiring and a must read! A few snippets are below:

Fulfillment by Amazon and Amazon Prime Membership:

With the success of these two programs now so well established, it’s difficult for most people to fully appreciate today just how radical those two offerings were at the time we launched them. We invested in both of these programs at significant financial risk and after much internal debate. We had to continue investing significantly over time as we experimented with different ideas and iterations. We could not foresee with certainty what those programs would eventually look like, let alone whether they would succeed, but they were pushed forward with intuition and heart, and nourished with optimism.

Non-linear success:

A builder’s mentality helps us approach big, hard-to-solve opportunities with a humble conviction that success can come through iteration: invent, launch, reinvent, relaunch, start over, rinse, repeat, again and again. They know the path to success is anything but straight. 

Sometimes (often actually) in business, you do know where you’re going, and when you do, you can be efficient. Put in place a plan and execute. In contrast, wandering in business is not efficient … but it’s also not random. It’s guided – by hunch, gut, intuition, curiosity, and powered by a deep conviction that the prize for customers is big enough that it’s worth being a little messy and tangential to find our way there. Wandering is an essential counter-balance to efficiency. You need to employ both. The outsized discoveries – the “non-linear” ones – are highly likely to require wandering.

Failure:

As a company grows, everything needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments. If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle. Amazon will be experimenting at the right scale for a company of our size if we occasionally have multibillion-dollar failures. 

Amazon Echo:

No customer was asking for Echo. This was definitely us wandering. Market research doesn’t help. If you had gone to a customer in 2013 and said “Would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?” I guarantee you they’d have looked at you strangely and said “No, thank you.”  Since that first-generation Echo, customers have purchased more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices. 

In 2018, Third-party sales were $160 billion; First party sales were $117 billion.  Although Mr. Bezos states that “Third-party sellers are kicking our first party butt. Badly” as compound growth rates are 52% vs 25%.  This is simply an attempt to underplay Amazon’s dominance since the growth rate differential is directly attributable to the small third-party denominator in 1999 of .1 billion.  Today, as 50% of all online sales occur through the Amazon platform, Amazon’s success is clear.

#Amazon #Risk/Reward #Non-linearSuccess

March was a busy month as I decided to take the entire Digital Marketing Program by The Wharton School in collaboration with edX.  The program consists of four courses, each with four or five units, each unit is three to five hours, and the program recommends one unit per week.  I rearranged various client-scheduled engagements to the afternoons, to free up my mornings to pursue the program.  I started early each morning and took one unit (course recommendation of one week) per day and achieved completion of the program over several weeks.  While some of the material was reiteration of previous knowledge, overall it was time well spent as often marketing aspects were presented from a different perspective.  New ways of thinking and new viewpoints are priceless.  I am a strong believer in the analytics of digital marketing, and the courses were a solid mix of ‘new digital’, its growth from variations of “old-world” direct response, and an overall online-offline mixture.

The course I enjoyed most was Customer Centricity, Managing the Value of Customer Relationships which discusses marketing philosophies that I have believed since my very first entrepreneurial venture: not all customers are created equal.  The majority of profits come from a company’s top ten or twenty percent of its customers, as well as the lesser customers which can be moved-up into this high value group.  The remaining customers are still important, as they help amortize substantial fixed costs, but enhanced service efforts should be focused on top tier customers.  Professor Fader, in Customer Centricity, also interwove marketing and finance in Customer Based Corporate Valuations.  I am a big proponent of the similarity in analytical aspects of data-driven marketing to finance, as has been demonstrated in the crisscrossing of the two throughout my career.

The courses also featured numerous acronyms including GRAVITY (geography, resistance, adjacency, vicinity, isolation, topography, you), SUCCES (simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, stories; they did not include the last S in success, but it would stand for stickiness), and STEPPS (social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value, stories).

Two of this month’s readings are books by Professors who taught the Wharton – edX courses:  The Customer Centricity Playbook: Implement a Winning Strategy Driven by Customer Lifetime Value, by Peter Fader, and Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior, by Jonah Berger.  The third book for March, Scrum: A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction, by Chris Sims & Hillary Louise Johnson is a short, but worthwhile description of Scrum, an agile framework of efficient, iterative development.

Books:

  1. Scrum: A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction, by Chris Sims & Hillary Louise Johnson
  2. The Customer Centricity Playbook: Implement a Winning Strategy Driven by Customer Lifetime Value, by Peter Fader and Sarah Toms
  3. Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior, by Jonah Berger

Courses

  1. Google Analytics Academy: Advanced Google Analytics
  2. The Wharton School in collaboration with edX: Digital Marketing, Social Media, & E-Commerce
  3. The Wharton School in collaboration with edX: Marketing Analytics: Tools & Techniques
  4. The Wharton School in collaboration with edX: Customer Centricity: Managing the Value of Customer Relationships
  5. The Wharton School in collaboration with edX: Selling Ideas: How to Influence Others and Get Your Message to Catch On

Unlike the Google Analytics Academy, Advanced Analytics course which was free, The Wharton School courses cost $580 per course, but they reminded me of my days at Wharton undergrad, as the quality of each course was top-notch.  March was the busiest and most challenging month of online course work, and the book total of eleven is slightly above pace to reach the 40 book goal for 2019.

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 4.41.08 PM

 

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

Aggregated Credibility is a valuable, dynamic asset most businesses underutilize.  The products and services your business sells everyday have positive impacts on your customers lives and each sale (or service you provide) inspires trust in your company and brand.  This trustworthiness adds up over time to impressive, confidence-inspiring information that should be shared with your current and future customers.

Small, as well as large businesses, can create powerful, compelling headlines and press releases proudly proclaiming their Aggregated Credibility.  If Joe’s Plumbing, a local plumbing company, services 10 customers a day, five days a week, over the course of a year it earns the Aggregated Credibility of Happily Servicing Over 2,000 Local Neighbors in the Past Year or Joe’s Plumbing, Your Local Plumber, Proudly Servicing 2,000 Fairfield County Neighbors in the Past Year.

Many people choose their supermarket based on coupons.  If a supermarket sees 400 customers a day, and the average customer saves $10, then in six months the supermarket has saved customers $700,000.  We saved customers over $700,000 in the last six months, how much can we save for you?  Or We saved customers over $123,000 last month, how much will you save today?  Both are potentially enticing headlines.

Bombas.com utilizes Aggregated Credibility to inspire confidence in the company and the company’s mission of donating socks to those in need for every pair purchased.  The constantly growing ticker displayed on their website of the 16.6 Million Pairs Donated shouts instant credibility for Bombas and encourages customers to engage in their socially responsible mission.

Aggregated Credibility needs to be relatable to resonate with customers.  In 1955 McDonald’s, under its famous Golden Arches displayed Over 1 Million Served.  In 1960, the sign was increased to 400 Million, and to 1 Billion in 1963.  McDonald’s periodically increased it at various milestones (5 Billion in 1969, 20 Billion in 1976 and 50 Billion in 1984), until 1994, when McDonald’s served its 100 Billionth customer and changed the iconic Golden Arches signage to Billions and Billions Served.  Even though they have served over 300 billion customers to date, McDonald’s continues displaying Billions and Billions Served.

Your company has worked hard to develop trust and authenticity one customer at a time, and deserves to effectively utilize the impressive, persuasive headlines it has earned. What is your Aggregated Credibility?

#AggregatedCredibility  #UnderutilizedAssets

 

Aggregated Credibility Cloud

February continued 2019’s strong continuous learning agenda.  The three books read were excellent for varied reasons.  Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller and Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins by Mark Schaefer, both pushed the human aspect of marketing which was a distant approach from the programmatic, digital side discussed in most of the online courses.  In reality, marketing is not an either/or scenario, as optimally both sides are symbiotic.  The information obtainable from digital, which makes any data-junkie salivate, can inform and enhance personal story-telling strategies.

The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking, by Saifedean Ammous, did not discuss Bitcoin significantly for the first 2/3rd of the book, instead focusing history gold as well as other monetary commodities and discussed hard versus soft money.  A fascinating read (although a biased anti-Keynesian view) on hard versus soft money.

Books:

  1. Building a Story Brand, by Donald Miller discusses the ebb and flow of a story and positions the company as the guide to the hero (the customer)
  2. The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking, by Saifedean Ammous
  3. Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins, by Mark Schaefer

Courses/Lectures

  1. LinkedIn Learning Course: Building Your Marketing Stack (2hrs 19 min)
  2. LinkedIn Learning Course: Business Intelligence for Consultants (29 min)
  3. LinkedIn Learning Course: Strategic Partnerships (49 min)
  4. LinkedIn Learning Course: Agile Marketing Foundations (1hr 13 min)
  5. Udemy Digital Marketing 301 (2hrs)
  6. Udemy Scrum Prep + Scrum Master + Scrum Training (3hrs)
  7. Google Analytics Academy

The LinkedIn Courses as well as the Google Analytics Academy were free.  Udemy was $15-$20 per course.  The total cost for February was again under $100; that’s a lot of information to digest for less than a single dinner for two, but, then again, it is a lot easier for your stomach to feel full, than your head.

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

I am an avid believer in continuous improvement and continuous learning.  Personal education is the ultimate asymmetric bet with virtually the only downside being the potential opportunity cost of time, while upside is limitless knowledge that can benefit your current business/clients and/or your future self.  My goal of reading 40 books for 2019, which would have been easier before I fell down the online lecture rabbit hole (again), but the internet offers a never-ending ability to search for new knowledge and fall-down more rabbit holes. Most of the lectures were refreshments of current knowledge, but if I can gain one new idea (or a re-remembrance of prior knowledge) per hour, it is an hour well-spent.

January was a solid start for 2019 with the following:

Books:

  1. Blitzscaling, The Lightning-Fast Path To Building Massively Valuable Companies, by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh. My thoughts on Blitzscaling.
  2. Creative Selection, Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs, by Ken Kocienda. My thoughts on Creative Selection.
  3. Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the World of Innovation, by Gary Shapiro
  4. This is Marketing: You Cannot Be Seen Until You See, by Seth Godin
  5. Industry e-book for a sustainability project I am working on.

Courses/Lectures:

  1. LinkedIn LearningPath: Become a Digital Advertising Specialist. This consisted of 11 courses; Most are overly basic, but I did enjoy a couple, including Programmatic Advertising
  2. LinkedIn Learning Course: Introduction to Attribution and Mix Modeling (1hr 41 min)
  3. LinkedIn Learning Course: Digital Marketing (1hr 27 min)
  4. LinkedIn Learning Course: Creative Thinking (47 min)
  5. Udemy Digital Marketing 201. This course is relatively basic, but still worthwhile, as there were a few snippets of information.

The LinkedIn courses are free.  Udemy was $10.  The total cost of the above was less than $100, and all are definitely more worthwhile than spending time in front of the television.  Looking forward to what February brings!

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

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