Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Otaku Marketing Plans

Otaku is a Japanese term, now used throughout the marketing world, to mean a person or group of people obsessed with a particular topic/problem/or interest.  Recently, I was astonished to learn that there is an Otaku group who are obsessed with a specific kind of ice - nugget ice.   I learned this from doing a deep analysis of what causes IndieGogo campaigns to succeed or fail.  You see, there is an Opal Ice Maker, which does 1 thing ~ makes nugget ice ~ that recently raised $2.5 Million dollars on indiegogo.  And this got me thinking....

Who in their right mind would PRE-ORDER a $450 ice machine?

Clearly, I'm not an Otaku for nugget ice.

But also as clear, this marketing plan worked.  And it was a pretty simple plan really, and had almost NOTHING to do with advertising or promotion.  I've written extensively in the past about marketing plans, and how marketing is SO MUCH MORE than just advertising.  This Opal Ice Maker is clearly a perfect example.   So, what made this successful? And how can you build a marketing plan just like it?

  1. The Opal Ice Maker is targeted specifically and exclusively to people who love nugget ice, and would die to have it at home... Clearly, there is a passionate following of nugget ice, and this entire product was built EXCLUSIVELY for that audience.  (I would never buy one, for example).
  2. The Opal Ice Maker 'completely' solves the problem of making your own nugget ice at home.... it does exactly what it says it will do, and most people cannot even imaging using 24 pounds of nugget ice at their home, even at a party!
  3. They went after and got people who love nugget ice, targeting people who 'like sonic drivethru' (who have the nugget ice), and other chains where people frequent just to get their ice fix.
  4. It's not a low price, but a high price... because Otaku people would pay it, and a high price signals quality.
So, to replicate this marketing plan all you need to do is:
  1. Find a problem that a very specific small Otaku group have, and are extremely passionate about.
  2. Completely solve the problem.
  3. Target and reach out to that group directly (ads, PR, gorilla marketing).
  4. Charge a high enough price to signal quality.
Now, go out and market!

Friday, September 18, 2015

5 Ways to Test your Startup Idea - Lean

So, you have an idea?  An invention even?  How do you know for sure it is any good? Here is 5 ways you can test your idea without building it first.

1.) create a free website at and make 2 pages.  Page 1 describes your idea, and includes a link to Buy Now!  Page 2 says "sorry" out of stock and asks for an email.  Now send everyone you know to the page... And see how many you 'sell'.

2.) Setup some interviews with people who should really want your product/service.  Ask them about the idea and ask how much they might pay for that...  judge the amount as validation!

3.) Go to a trade show and try to hand out a flier about your idea... Judge people's reaction and ask them what they think.

4.) Search the web for similar products and especially for  targey customer types actually complaining about the problem your idea solves.  Hear nothing/find nothing.... Probably not good for your idea.

5.) Make a mockup of your idea and stand at a corner where target customers might walk by.  Ask people if they would like to learn and what they would pay for that. 

The key idea is: will your target customer pay for the idea?

Go out and see BEFORE you build it.

Thats lean startup.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Redefining Intelligence

Yesterday I was lecturing to a bunch of awesome UT Students and I was asked for an example of one of 'my' lighthouse principles.  I said 'fairness', because I do believe in fairness; primarily fairness of opportunity.   When I said this fairness principle applies to 'grading', the students were quite happy about that!

A similar value of mine is 'effort'.  That if people will apply enough effort they can achieve anything.

So, how does this relate to intelligence?

Well, two things, a child can be intelligent, but not given equal opportunity (fairness), and thus fall behind others... and specifically fail to learn how to effectively learn (i.e. they might be quick to learn, if they had the opportunity).  Thus when that child does poorly in school, and drops out, and stops learning new things, are they less intelligent?  Society says no... I think the answer should be 'yes'.

Second, and opposite, a child can be considered a 'slow learner', but who puts in maximum effort, and learns how to learn (for them), and gains average grades in school but sticks with it.  This child learns advanced mathematics, science, history, and more... is this 'slow learner' still considered as not very intelligent?  Society says yes... I think the answer is no.  This child is MORE intelligent than the quick learner who (for reasons in or out of their control) does not put in enough effort to continue learning.

Here's what this all means:  I believe that intelligence should be a measure of the knowledge that a person has gained and retained.  This is not how fast or how easy it is for that person to learn new things, because with enough effort, that can be overcome.  This is instead how MUCH that person has learned, whether by whatever amount of effort it might have taken.

The quickness of how fast someone can learn (or memorize or problem solve), is a totally separate trait, barely worthy of consideration (e.g. IQ is useless).  Thus we must not call the lazy quick learner who does not apply themselves as intelligent.  We must not accept the messed up education system that does not give the quick learner enough opportunity.   Even more so, we must not call the 'not as quick' learners less intelligent, instead we must give them 'fair' opportunity to apply effort to gain intelligence.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Losing your temper in business. The take 5 rule.

I've done it.  We've all done it.  At some point in your life, you lose  your cool.  You get mad, and you show it ~ sometimes quite visibly.  But what happens when you lose your temper in business?  What can happen?  And what are the long lasting effects of losing your temper in the office?  Here's my experience and what you can do to avoid or minimize problems when it inevitably does happen to you.

1. I've lost my cool numerous times in the office, usually I get red in the face, start to frown dangerously, and get real quiet.... I can tell you from experience, that look usually shuts people down and RARELY does it get beyond this point for me.  Yah, it's clear I'm mad, but people that have worked for me know that I'll cool down in a few minutes... especially if....

1.b. The best tactic not to go beyond this point (turning red/ frowning) is to say "let's take 5" and walk outside or get some water... remember to breathe, and that life is bigger than whatever you are mad at.  After 5 min. you should be cool enough to talk rationally again.

2. Occasionally, even after 5 min., I'm still angry.  Heck, I can still be mad after 2-days, and sitting down with that person again just sparks back up the anger.  I can't keep "taking 5" constantly.   What to do?

2.b. The best thing to do is to try to take an 'active listening' approach.  This involves starting at the beginning (after a take-5 or when you're cooled down), asking again about the problem, then most importantly repeating the problem back to the person from their point of view.  They will feel heard and then they will be ready to listen.  Explain your problem.  Ask them to say it back to you.  Then ask them to explain what they want.  Say it back to them.  Tell them what you want.  Ask them to say it back to you.  Now find a solution.. you'll both be read to figure it out.

3. So... uhoh.  I yelled.  I screamed.  I lost it.   Have I done that?  sure.  Just never let it get physical... more on that later.   All you did was yell... maybe you cursed... What do you do now???

3.b. My best advice is to quickly acknowledge you lost your cool and you need to "take 5".  The world is not over.  This happens. Has happened to me.  Nothing too terrible is going to happen.  Follow 2.b above, and all will be okay.  After your take 5, acknowledge that you were wrong to yell, but you are still angry, and then move to active listening.

4. So, you got physical?  This has not happened to me.  Hopefully you've taken 5, got away from the situation.  In my companies, there is a rule: no-one can refuse or get upset about someone's need to take 5.  I HAVE seen someone get physical at work 1 time.  I was the manager.

4.b. So, what happens if you get physical at work?   I can tell you what I did. I fired the person, immediately.  On the spot.  No regrets, no 2nd chances.  You get physical at work, you should be fired.  Period.  Hopefully your workplace has a take 5 rule... if not take it yourself.  Getting docked 5 minutes of time is better than being fired.

I hope this blog has left you with some thoughts.. feel free to post them below.  I respond to all comments and questions.