My goal is to write one 'Pattern Recognition' a week. Just the top 3-4 stories that stayed under my skin. Here's what stuck this week:
- Brands Should Target Connectors Aggressively: This week, I was in NYC on business. As it was raining, I asked the doorman at my hotel if he could hail a cab for me. While we were waiting, he pulled his new Samsung Galaxy Note out of his pocket, and starting checking the news. Having never actually seen someone using a Galaxy Note, I asked him if he liked the device. Almost apologetically, he told me how he's a long-time Apple gadget lover but had needed something a little bigger than an iPhone, as a lot of the time, guests of the hotel ask a question, need directions and what not. In fact, he was quite happy with the device. This got me thinking. A hotel doorman must find himself in dozens of (potential) like encounters every day, all the while in a mode that puts a device like the Galaxy Note in a favorable light. Given the natural position of such connectors to spread the good word about a product relevant to doing their job, this sure seems like an argument for brands aggressively targeting key connectors in relevant segments. They are the ultimate influencers when the context is right. To be clear, I am sure some brands are doing this; I just don't believe it's a standard part of many companies' market penetration strategies.
- Staying in the Game: Being in the tech business, I constantly marvel at the number of companies who despite mediocre products and dubious customer adoption in the early stages of their life, somehow manage to 'hang around' until they achieve victory. By victory, I mean: A) outlasting the competition; B) finding a market; C) achieving product maturation; or D) realizing a successful M&A event. To me, this suggests that winning is as much a product of finding a way to 'stay in the game' as it is about pursuing greatness or building a dominant market position. Sometimes what separates the winners from the losers is the conviction that you simply won't be defeated, and the unyielding drive to keep moving towards the goal line in the face of doubters, defectors and hard data. Mark Suster delves into this topic in an effective post called 'What to do about that chip on your shoulder,' and I love how Facebook challenges its rank and file to ask themselves, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" Sometimes, when we're feeling against the wall, we let fear and a sense of doom drive us into the crash position. Winners ignore such facts, as the KNOW their destiny is otherwise. Paradoxical, to be sure, but such is life.
- Facebook's Growth Team: Probably the most impressive thing that I read this week was the response on Quora to the question, 'What are some decisions taken by the "Growth team" at Facebook that helped Facebook reach 500 million users?' Read the whole piece as it spotlights how a company goes about institutionalizing growth in the same way that Apple, under Steve Jobs, insitutionalized the process of creating insanely great products. It's indicative of how fundamentally different business CAN be in the age of the Internet Economy, and one gets the sense that Facebook is absolutely dogmatic in their approach. This truth is best framed by the following snippet from Andy Johns, who worked on the Growth Team at Facebook, "Growth was a horizontal layer across product like engineering/ops is a horizontal framework behind product. Not only would someone ask 'What's the performance impact on site speed or stability if we build and ship 'X'?' it became common for people to ask 'What's the impact on growth if we build and ship 'X'?'. The decision to make growth a canonical part of the product, engineering and operational discussion was a really important decision that the executives made." In the end, it all comes back to understanding your product and the value + outcomes that it delivers. This requires having both the rigor and framework to suss that truth out, then test it, and iterate tirelessly to the bullseye. This truth is underscored by the comment by Chamath Palihapitiya, who led the Growth Team, and stated, "At Facebook, one thing we were able to determine early on was a key link between the number of friends you had in a given time and likelihood to churn. Knowing this allowed us to do a lot to get new users to their 'a-ha' moment quickly. Obviously, however, this required us to know what the 'a-ha' moment was with a fair amount of certainty in the first place." Needless to say, way too few companies know this answer with such certainty in their business, and even fewer build the systems required to optimize it, which explains Facebook's unique position in the market.