In many markets, coordinated poor service by multiple providers results in the short term profit maximizing strategy. I’ve taken a 6am Monday morning train into the city 3 out of the past 4 weekends. This allows for great Sunday nights will Jill, Edie, and our new baby Cooper; and I’m an early to bed early to rise kind of guy so waking at 5am-ish is no issue.
However, this requires taking a taxi. All three times the taxis have been 10 to 15 minutes late. Today I used an earlier than needed pickup time to ensure I arrived in time for the train. The taxi was 15 minutes late. When I commented on this to the dispatcher and driver, they were unapologetic claiming the guy before me was late. They went so far as to say “there’s nothing they could do.” From an operations standpoint the solution is simple: more taxis or fewer bookings. What they should have said is that the current setup is more profitable, and that customer dissatisfaction is unlikely to harm the business. Taxis are not a long lifetime customer value business. From the three services I’ve used, the industry in East Hampton appears in coordination to abide by these principles. No one respects pickup times, so everyone can profit maximize at lower service levels. Such tacit coordinations in fragmented industries would be very interesting were they not so infuriating. The only risk is that a vicious cycle occurs. More and more people like me give false early pickup times and on the rare occasion the taxi arrives at the appointed time, I’m not ready resulting in backups. Perhaps that was the cause of my delay today. The opportunity here is for a higher service, higher price provider: East Hampton On-Time Taxi. It could probably charge a 50% premium justifying fewer bookings. Either way, in frustration there are always learnings and logic. Things are seldom the way they are because there is “nothing to be done.” Especially when it comes to being late and poor service, active choice is almost always at play. BLOG POST:
Posted via email from jonsteinbergIn many markets, coordinated poor service by multiple providers results in the short term profit maximizing strategy. I’ve taken a 6am Monday morning train into the city 3 out of the past 4 weekends. This allows for great Sunday nights will Jill, Edie, and our new baby Cooper; and I’m an early to b … | Comment »
"The telephone’s a terrorist I’m not even listening”
Yes the telephone is terrible, but when should you use it?
I strongly believe in telephone use for nuanced conversations that can be quickly resolved using voice but could spiral out of control on email. I would list in the bucket:
Price negotiations. If you’re a good negotiator or have read Getting to Yes, you can reach agreement on the phone, whereas email might lead to a deadlock. If you can quickly give and take on the phone, you can nail down an agreement that might take days of frustration on email. However, you need to be quick on your feet, have your data in front of you, and most importantly be empowered by your company to grant concessions.
Negative feedback that can be taken ad hominem. I find critical feedback on important product or business decisions is best handled on the phone when it might be taken personally. On the phone it’s easy to make the distinction. On email there is no tone, and ability to respond to a situation where you’re being misinterpreted. Also a corollary, in my time at Disney, I learned a rule: No negativity without alternative. At Imagineering, you were not allowed to criticize an idea unless you had a better alternative. I try and live by this rule.
When someone is unresponsive. "I emailed three times" is unacceptable. Did you call? It’s much harder for people to ignore phone calls. They have the weight of certified letters. This is why my deal close rate at Google was higher than my colleagues; I used the phone more, and I didn’t schedule calls - I just call people’s mobile phones. But I’m polite, I call between 9 and 6 their local time, and always begin, "Hi, do you have a minute?"
Some issues with the phone:
Voicemails are ridiculous. No one wants them. They’re bad unstructured emails. I read an article saying that 20% aren’t ever listened to. Call, get voicemail, hang up, email with “I just rang you…” followed by message. Also, don’t phone stalk. Assume that a person is aware of each time you call, even if you don’t leave a voicemail because of caller ID.
Phone calls are over scheduled. Most of the phone calls that get scheduled, should just be people ringing each other when they have the impulse to schedule. Otherwise you spend 10 minutes going back and forth scheduling a 5 minute call.
On this last point, the most over-scheduled over used call is the “let’s have a call to see how we can do business together” call. I think this is a case where email is better. I think email and face to faces are the best way to explore business partnerships. Documents and ideas can be exchanged over email. All too often the phone call is of little value at the earliest points of a business discusion. In fact, waiting for the “big call” to discuss things delays actual progress. The call should happen once their are specific issues or nuanced questions, like the ones discussed above to work out. All of my best, quickest deals, have been closed using this methodology.
Posted via email from jonsteinberg"The telephone’s a terrorist I’m not even listening" -Frente Yes the telephone is terrible, but when should you use it?I strongly believe in telephone use for nuanced conversations that can be quickly resolved using voice but could spiral out of control on email. I would list in the bucket: Price n … | Comment »
A good poker player is evaluated over the course of weeks, months, years, and a career or playing. You lose some hands and some games, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you made the wrong calls. With that said, each hand is a universe in and of itself. When you’re playing hand, your chip stack and the stacks of those around you may influence your play, but you’re mostly playing a hand. It’s the opposite of chess, where you’re supposed to be thinking many many moves ahead. In the poker hand, you consider your position, consider how your play may influence the perception of you in the game, but you’re predominantly playing the hand. I think it is poker and not chess that reflects the current realities of business today. You need to play each product, sales, or business development decision as a hand that exists in the here and now. You can be influenced by the historic play of your partners, employees, and counter parties. You’re also smart to consider how your play in this hand will influence the perception of you by partners, employees, and counter parties in the future. So to drill the caveats: business and life is a multishot game, so you do need to play each hand with consideration of long term ethics and reputation. But with all those caveats, focusing on future hands and not the current hand is a misallocation of your mental energy. The current hand is what matters, and last I checked, you only live in the present, not the past and future. The alternative would be to focus on moves ahead. Overly focus on how your current sales strategy or the business development deal that is on the table will play out moves ahead. Playing chess is a mistake because the board will be changed by the time the future arrives. Far from the hyperbole of the bubble in the 90’s (i.e. “if you have a business plan you’re too late”), this reality is one where partners and competitors enter, leave, and shift strategy so quickly, that the future you anticipate is never the one you are dealing with. For example, had FourSquare looked moves ahead a year ago, it might have considered a merger with Gowalla or some high level multi-step strategy to compete. Ultimately such long term competitive theorizing would have been worthless, as the competitive dynamics for FourSquare are now shaped by a new platform entrant - Facebook. FourSquare wisely chose to just play hard poker, hand after hand, and I imagine will continue to do so. In my day to day business, I focus on the deals and sales today that I believe will increase enterprise value. I ask myself, is this transaction good today and does it preserve my and the company’s long term position at the table. My typical decision process is: “Is this good, and if yes, does it do anything to hurt or long term position?” Which in poker terms would be, “can I win this hand, and if yes, are there any ways this hand could play out that would cause me to lose the game?” If it’s a “yes” followed by a “no,” I push chips in. We focus on playing hands, and avoid analysis paralysis of thinking like, “Deal A is good but what is Company B enters our market and we would have preferred to do Deal Y.” With that said, we frequently fold on hands that we think we could have won, but didn’t like the pot odds. Don’t even get me started on why business is not like golf… BLOG POST:
Posted via email from jonsteinbergA good poker player is evaluated over the course of weeks, months, years, and a career or playing. You lose some hands and some games, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you made the wrong calls. With that said, each hand is a universe in and of itself. When you’re playing hand, your chip stack an … | Comment »
In product oriented businesses you need to name things all the time. I find the best names for products are the ones that occur to you spontaneously and that you like right away. If it’s a name you wonder about, it never gets better. It’s a lot like naming children. My favorite Buzzfeed name to date is our in-stream ad units. We call them “story units.” The name is simple an descriptive. I find it hard to even talk about these yellow units without using the name. I simply don’t know what else to call them.
We’re rolling out a self-service ad product that Jonah and Chris call "boost." I’m not aware that there was ever a formal naming discussion around this; it just is. We’ve struggled with what to call our reporting dashboard used by publishers and advertisers. We currently use the term “viral dashboard;” I don’t love this like I love the other two examples I’ve mentioned. However the alternatives, such as “viral cockpit,” were confusing or complex. A name needs to be simple and obvious. It needs to immediately let a person know what something is. I suppose this was why Facebook called their “check in” product “check in.” Something unique would probably have confused people. I also believe that if customers start calling something by a name in a large enough volume and consistency, you need to just accept it. I.e. “tweet” Up until the age of about 23, I went by “Jonathan.” People were consistently calling me “Jon,” and I was consistently correcting them. I realized this was distancing me from people who wanted to be familiar. It was awkward for the first year. However, 10 years later, it just feels natural. It’s still weird when people from college call me Jonathan. BLOG POST:
Posted via email from jonsteinbergIn product oriented businesses you need to name things all the time. I find the best names for products are the ones that occur to you spontaneously and that you like right away. If it’s a name you wonder about, it never gets better. It’s a lot like naming children. My favorite Buzzfeed name to dat … | Comment »
A Gateway Checkin: I love Foursquare but Facebook Places had a shot
Being able to “tag” friends when you check in will be a huge growth driver for Facebook Places. I’m an unabashed fan of Foursquare and think the service will continue to thrive. With that said, if I’m out for dinner with my parents and check them in with me, they’ll see it in their feed, probably comment on it, and the next time they run Facebook on their mobiles, potentially check themselves in. I’m doubtful this will become habitual for most people, but with this gateway checkin, and 500 million users, sporadic may be enough.
It’s a very good use of network effects. Not only is Facebook pushing Places to everyone, like Google did with Buzz via Gmail, but it’s also leveraging the network on each given interaction. I’m friends with almost everyone I eat dinner with on Facebook. I’m a rabid user of social media, and now in every given checkin, the network effects of the Facebook platform kick in for me. I’m sure the privacy issues are huge, but so are risks in anything that has a huge quick conversion potential. And these Facebook guys are willing to play dangerous with this stuff. I poo pooed this launch, and I still think it’s pretty lame how much they’ve borrowed from Foursquare, even down to the use of the phrase "check in." (And as a side note, I give the Foursquare exec who was on stage at the launch event a lot of credit for using his 5 minutes to coyly explain how much Foursquare had “pioneered” all this.) But the tagging of your friends at checkin gives this much more quick growth potential than Yelp or other copycat checkin attempts. (written on iPhone. Excuse everything) BLOG POST:
Posted via email from jonsteinbergBeing able to “tag” friends when you check in will be a huge growth driver for Facebook Places. I’m an unabashed fan of Foursquare and think the service will continue to thrive. With that said, if I’m out for dinner with my parents and check them in with me, they’ll see it in their feed, probably c … | Comment »
Don Draper seemed to be channeling Henry Ford and Steve Jobs when he casts aside market research in last night’s episode. Faced with research arguing for one marketing strategy for Ponds Cold Cream, Draper explodes stating that after a few months with his campaign in the market people will think differently.
The theme is that if Ford asked his customers what they wanted they would have said faster horses. If Jobs had asked consumers if they wanted and iPad, they’d have said, “what?”This is how the argument against market research goes. It has some truth to it but it’s also an oversimplification. The Howard Roark instinct to create in a vacuum the beautiful original thing with no feedback is charming but not ideal. This is especially the case when you need partners and customers. You need someone’s feedback at some point. The key for me has always been choosing my spots and allowing for marination. As I look back on my career, it occurs to me that I have always been biz deving a deal or selling a product that is new. I’ve also had the luxury in all cases of being faced with large markets of many many potential partners/buyers. The key for me has also been not to argue. When faced with strong initial pushback, I listen, converse, and don’t try to convince. I focus on those eager to experiment and those who have questions and specific needs, as opposed to those that prefer to say “no.” I do, however, remain in touch and keep the doors open. I take this strategy for several reasons. Some people prefer not to do new things. So their push back has little to do with my product. Others prefer not to experiment, so the best thing I can do is work with early adopters to prove out success that they can then seek to emulate. Finally, some of those who push back strong just need time and silence to marinate on the idea, to ping me every week or so with a question or two. I can’t change their process, or if I tried it would take a lot of time and probably be unsuccessful. The luxury here is that I’ve never been in a market with one or two possible partners. In fact, I hate markets like that for exactly the reasons stated above. When your market has thousands of buyers and partners, you can just keep moving and not dwell on one counterparty. This has that added benefit of when you leave someone alone, he or she has his time to think through the offering, ask questions at his own pace, and see your success in the market. You never want to “convince” someone of something, just like you don’t want to convince someone to marry you. A relationship that begins with convincing will always be a struggle.The most concrete example I can give today, is with regard to viral and social advertising. We still meet some people who think viral and social advertising should be free. They believe that if they make a good video and tweet it out, the world will see it. This view is quickly becoming rarer and rarer, but when I see it, I explain big seed marketing, listen, and move on. BLOG POST:
Posted via email from jonsteinbergDon Draper seemed to be channeling Henry Ford and Steve Jobs when he casts aside market research in last night’s episode. Faced with research arguing for one marketing strategy for Ponds Cold Cream, Draper explodes stating that after a few months with his campaign in the market people will think di … | Comment »
I often get asked why people share more on Buzzfeed. The data proves out this claim, but let me offer some qualitative drivers. A recent study found that our users share 67.5% of the time, as opposed to the next closest site, whose users only shared only 49% of the time:
http://blog.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeed/2010/07/buzzfeed-leads-in-social-boosting.html A BuzzFeed user is on average much more to share a page then not. Let me lay out the reasons why this is: First and most importantly, BuzzFeed surfaces the most imminently shareable content. Out tracking code monitors 1.4 billion page views of leading content sites each month. Only the most viral (or shared) content gets triggered onto Buzzfeed.com. This means that the stuff people are sharing is the stuff that ends up on BuzzFeed. So our users are presented with stuff that has already demonstrated itself as sharing-friendly. Second, this ends up being a virtuous cycle. We attract users who are early identifiers and like to share. We present influentials who like to share with content that is begging to be shared. Third, people want to share content quickly and emotionally. This is why BuzzFeed pioneered our LOL, OMG, WTF, cute, etc. buttons. One click to tag an emotion and fire it to your friends. Fourth, each viral content page shows the seed and viral traffic. Data informs and drives sharing. Our users want to know where the viral spread stands. Some like to be early, some like to know that the content is really viral. Either way, the data informs the judgement and willingness to share. These are just four reasons, there are many more, but these are some of the best. BLOG POST:
Posted via email from jonsteinbergI often get asked why people share more on Buzzfeed. The data proves out this claim, but let me offer some qualitative drivers. A recent study found that our users share 67.5% of the time, as opposed to the next closest site, whose users only shared only 49% of the time: http://blog.buzzfeed.com/b … | Comment »
Earlier this week, we started the New York Viral Media Meetup. We did it because we weren’t aware of any meetup or group that addressed our particular subsector of the media and tech world in NYC.
I’ve been really excited by the response to our first meetup, which is scheduled for next Thursday, as well as the groups quick membership growth. The event is filled up (our office is not that big) but we will send the live webcast link to all members of the meetup.I’m a big believer in community and open source entrepreneurship. I like being open and find I benefit from it professionally and personally. But you need the right community to be open with.Buzzfeed really sits in the middle of media, ad tech, and tech; and I was surprised to see how many other group members are in the same spot. For me, I’m hoping that the group will help me get more into the advertising and marketing parts of out community.So I hope you join the meetup and please let me know of you have ideas for it and want to host an upcoming session. We really could use a larger space as we filled 40 slots pretty quickly and I’m sure we could have done 100.Also if you’d like to speak at September’s meetup let me know. I think we’ll do a mix of pitches and talks. I’m going to look to keep the whole formal portion of these meetups to under an hour, maybe less. That why if you want to get home to your kids you can, or you can stick around and chat afterwards. BLOG POST:
Posted via email from jonsteinbergEarlier this week, we started the New York Viral Media Meetup. We did it because we weren’t aware of any meetup or group that addressed ourparticular subsector of the media and tech world in NYC. I’ve been really excited by the response to our first meetup, which is scheduled for next Thursday, as w … | Comment »