Monthly Archives: April 2009

An analogy adds substance

The other day I was listening to Jeff Bezos on Charlie Rose where he drew great analogies between a digital camera on cellphone and e-book reader on cellphone followed by an even more interesting one between cloud computing and electricity. The first one was to compare how an e-book reader on cell phone will affect Kindle’s market. Bezos compared e-book reading to photography. His argument was that people won’t trade a feature-rich digital camera specifically for photography with a simple digital camera on mobile phone, but they still like to have a camera on their mobile to take some pictures at places they don’t carry their digital camera. Similarly, they won’t trade a Kindle with e-book reader on cellphone, but would love to have some reading device on their cellphone for quick catch-up reading. This argument make so much more sense, and speaks volumes about Kindle’s market positioning, with the help of a comparison with something that is already happening out there today.

Another analogy he drew was while explaining the future of cloud computing. Bezos explained it by drawing a straight comparison between cloud computing and electricity. About a century back companies had their own electricity generator plants but as electric grids matured they abandoned their own electricity generation with pay-as-you-use model on electric grid. This helped them save costs and focus on their core expertise and service to their customers without worrying about how to get electricity to support their plants. Similarly letting companies that are expert in running data centers take care of your computing infrastructure and let you focus on your core expertise is what cloud computing’s selling proposition. A simple analogy from a century ago to explain the future!

I believe nothing adds more substance to an argument than a properly drawn analogy. It is like a proof to an argument which makes your pitch more believable and give people an authentic reason (or can we say, an alibi) to buy your argument.

Close the loop

Surveys are one of the most common ways to do mass market research. While they do a great job of asking the exact questions an organization wants to get answered, they are as good as the seriousness and credibility of the people answering the questions. Most surveys are one-time communications with rare follow-ups. People don’t know how their input is getting used and whether filling it out is worth their time. I believe the biggest concern with surveys is that they are open-ended.

How can we make surveys more interesting and effective? By providing a means to provide closure to what you are trying to find through these surveys. Researchers trying to find out information should link the surveys to an online community controlled by them. This community will have a workflow mechanism to help them show the progress of issues being asked in the questionnaire. Looking at the progress on specific questions they answered in the survey will make people more interested in filling them with sincerity because now they know that their input is really making a difference.

Linking surveys to a controlled community will fix another major issue faced by the researchers. It’s often seen that surveys are not able to attract the most insightful customers. Mavens tend to avoid filling surveys because of the nature of these surveys being pre-planned and not up for open discussions and collaboration. Researchers can put out the most interest generating topics in the survey out on their community to generate effective communications and collaborate with the customers. This will provide mavens a way to have two-way communication with the organization and researchers can effectively use these discussions to make better decisions. By implementing these decisions and communicating them to the network they will be able to excite the customers and close the loop!

Shopping and Buying

Any “shopkeeper” (retailer) will be more than happy if we do no shopping at her store but do all the buying over there. That’s the basic difference between these two terms: shopping and buying.

Shopping is an experience. Speaking in terms of the culture code, the experience of reconnecting with the world. People love shopping. We often attach terms like doing research and evaluating options when we talk about shopping. On the other hand, buying is a task. There’s nothing fancy about it. It is something we do because we have to do it. Buying is in fact the end of shopping.

The advent of the World Wide Web has added a new element to the shopping and buying experience. Often times we do shopping on the web and buying at a store and vice versa. Several elements come into play in shopping and making the buying decision. While we go shopping where it’s most convenient for us, we buy from a store we trust. We look forward to enjoying the shopping experience and paying economically while buying.

Consider cars for example. When shopping for a car, online is a great place to start. We can find a lot about a car on various websites and evaluate our options even before physically seeing the car. Then of course (most of) us go to a dealership, take a test drive, haggle over price based on the online research and make a final decision. The shopping experience that starts online continues at a physical store and the buying is done at a physical store.

While there are cases when it is complete opposite, i.e. we start shopping in a physical store, continue it online and buy the product online. Electronic items and books fit this bill most of the time. But then there are somethings like grocery and airline tickets for which we do both shopping and buying at the same place (in case of grocery and airline tickets physical stores and online respectively).

To be a successful retailer, it is necessary to create a great shopping experience, but at the same time focus equally hard on being trustworthy and economical to make buying as easy and comfortable as possible.

What’s your alibi?

The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille has more than a few wow moments, but the one that astonished me the most is the presence of an alibi with the code. Alibi is the necessary element that adds power to the code. It’s the rational reasoning behind what a person does.

Run down the memory lanes, and you will find every significant decision you made had an alibi behind it. You spend hours shopping but do not buy anything because you need an alibi to continue shopping. You buy a luxury car because you have alibi in form of comfort and well, luxury. You checkout from time-to-time in search of an alibi to keep working.

Even if you have broken the code that can persuade the customer to buy your product, if you don’t have the alibi to rationalize the product’s need for the customer, it is hard to get it across. So before you take your product to the market, ask yourself this question: what’s my alibi?