The One Thing More Important Than Persistence…

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.

Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

– Calvin Coolidge –

 

I remembered this was the point made for the movie “The Founder”.

Ray Kroc was depicted telling himself this at the start and at the end of the movie.
Sure – this seems like common sense and jives very much with “hustle”.

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But I have come to realize, just like jiujitsu and the art of living well – its all about efficiency.
Just like nature – efficiency comes from being efficient in how you operate – to minimize energy exerted and maximize energy conserved.

I remembered someone telling me – “What’s worst than an idiot is a motivated idiot”

So, what is more important than persistence?

Is being very clear on what to persist in.
Being very objective and selective in your goals, activities and charting the strategies to get there.

Often times – we are not clear on the direction we are heading.
As a result, we keep stabbing at all directions and pursuing all the wrong things.

This will mean – being totally OK not doing everything and knowing everything and being very aware of this.
For example, I am currently focused on getting good (or at least able to grapple with a gameplan well enough) at jiujitsu.
This means knowing my trade-off’s – I will be having less 1 hour ++ for most days for training and perhaps even not doing weights / skipping as often as I would like to.

Taking a step back – looking at the syllabus and focusing my time and efforts on the right techniques and getting good at the 20% that will get me to an acceptable level. In this case – good defenses & escapes in the different positions – guard, mount, side mount, turtle, sweeps from the various positions and basic attacks from the different positions. Just focus on mastering these and getting good at it that I can operate on sub conscious before I move on to the next cool technique.

The Bright Shiny Object Trap

I find myself in my younger days (heck even sometimes nowadays) falling prey for the “Bright Shiny Object Syndrome” by pursuing many things and not having the “Mastery” mindset to get good at something.
I ended up being pursuer of “Hacks” and “Techniques” rather than being a Master.

This is a subtle and yet very big difference between an Adept and a Master.
As Bruce Lee famously said: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”

I came across a really good framework – that seems to be working – on this.
I have come to the conclusion that self management at its essence is management of attention / Presence, time, energy and Emotions.
But the core of it is time.

Its the one thing that is limited to everyone – young or old, rich or poor.

Sure money can buy you convenience (and some time) – but the total hours you have in a day would be the same.
So – the question is – how best you can utilize the time given.

I am currently testing this framework out and will share more as I progress.
I have been jumping from one system to another – but I think this is a great end-all-be-all of all systems that unilaterally develops my “self management” muscle at the same time.

It combines a few things I have been picking up from different books, systems and what seems to work well for me.
Short circuiting habit, presence and self awareness.

Notes from Evergreen by Noah Flemming

Evergreen businesses look at long term sustainability.

There are 5 metrics for growth:

Acquisition,  Activation (conversion), Retention , Revenue, Referral

As a Growth Marketer – my job is to optimize these funnels to ensure maximum ROI (Return on Investment) and ROE (Return on Effort). I do this via mini experiments carried out with sufficient data points.

So according to Noah, how does a company become Evergreen?

It all comes back to the relationship between the company and the customer. Great companies go above and beyond to nurture their relationship with their customers. This is the kind of company that becomes Evergreen.

Your business can eternally provide life, growth and regeneration. Becoming Evergreen will create a better, richer and more fulfilling experience for your customers. And you’ll gain customers faster.

 

Customers should not just be rotating heads

Leaky Bucket Theory

Most businesses think that new customers are the way to go for growth.

This is quite far from the truth.

Leaky Bucket Theory is an analogy that suggests that most business operate like a leaky bucket. Your business is the bucket and your customers are the water. The holes in the bucket represent the various areas where you lose your customers. Most businesses tend to focus on adding more water instead of repairing the holes.

So what happens when you focus on having more water in a leaky bucket – you get a flood that you cannot control.

Most businesses have no idea of the cost of acquisition of customers or even lifetime value of customers. Having clarity on acquisition costs is vital to know how much you can spend on marketing.

The cost of ongoing customer engagement is nothing compared to the cost of acquiring new customers. If you want to experience dramatic growth within your organization, you must truly understand the relationship between profit, growth, longevity, customer relationships, employee empowerment and customer service.

The term customer-centric is a strategy that aligns a company’s development and delivery of its products with the current and future needs of a select set of customers in order to maximize their long-term financial value to the firm. Customer-centricity is crucial to be Evergreen.

Use data to monitor, measure and track customer consumption and usage and estimate likelihood of future profitability. Then market to ensure they receive the most value from the company.

 

The Three Cs (increasing conversion):

For an organization to thrive in our rapidly changing economy, it must embrace the Three C’s: character, community and content.

Character is the first thing that comes to customers’ minds when they think about your business. The principle of character is about defining, crafting, and presenting the character traits that you want customers to associate with your organisation. Modern brands that targets the millennials emphasizes a lot on having character – it gives a voice and personality to the brand.

Human beings are prone to seek out others who share similar interests, values and beliefs. People are attracted to brand communities because they help them find others who enjoy the same products or services. Companies that recognize this need for connection and create structures that allow communities to form have significant advantages when it comes to retaining customers, building customer loyalty, and maximizing customer value.
The same is true for repulsion marketing – pushing out people who will most likely not get your brand.
You don’t want to target everyone – if your target is everyone – its most often nobody.

Content is the core “thing” the customer receives in exchange for money. It is necessary for a successful business. Without content, there is no business. However, only having excellent content is no guarantee of success.

If you want to be Evergreen, you need all three Cs to be working together. Examples of this are great social media – with awesome character, helpful and value adding blog posts and landing pages with an attitude.

Character

To create a compelling company character, you must first develop your origin story and communicate it to your customers. Then, define your superhero. People want to do business with people and companies they like and trust, but also who fascinate them. And superheroes fascinate us. The personality of your character must be perpetuated though every piece of marketing and every bit of customer communication. Step three is to build purpose for your character’s actions. Understand your company’s purpose for doing what it does. Then, create an avatar of your character. Imagine that your company’s character and your ideal customer met today for the first time. Create a fictional conversation between them. Good examples of these: Middle Finger Project,  Eat 24 etc.

Community

Organisations that successfully build customer communities experience remarkable benefits from their efforts. It will take time and money but it is well worth it. To build a customer community, you must first develop a community strategy. Once you have defined your vision, choose your tools. The Web offers great tools, but look beyond that too. Then, cultivate your community. Put the right tools and systems in place to allow shared interests, values and beliefs to spread from one member of your community to another. Then, take a step back. Let it grow organically. Good examples of these: Xiomi, Android Community etc.

Content

Your company’s content is only one small part of your customer’s overall experience. Content is valuable, but it is important to provide an excellent customer experience too. Customers want more than just your content. They want to have an emotionally engaging experience that makes them feel good. Having a very clear customer avatar to know how your product / service best serves your customer.

Evergreen Diagnostic 

The Evergreen Diagnostic features four quadrants that represent different types of companies:

Deciduous companies lose many customers each year and are constantly trying to gain new customers. This describes the “Leaky Bucket” concept described earlier.

Barren companies have no customer relationship and because of that, no longevity. Most traditional companies operate this way – in a very transactional level.

Wilting companies can retain its customers, but they do little to establish customer relationships. Most typical companies operate in this level – with the occasional eDM’s, SMS-es, etc.

Evergreen companies have great relationships with their customers and keep them coming back. With relationship building emails, knowing exactly what customers want, doing customer proper segmentation and sending targeted and specific marketing messages to customers. Also providing as much value where possible.

Your goal should be to look at every customer transaction as an opportunity to create a long-term relationship with a lot of value.

Rethinking Loyalty (focusing on retention)

There are three distinct objectives of your loyalty program:

  • To increase customer retention and increase the frequency of purchases and the size of each transaction
  • To gain a better understanding of your customers, including actionable insights
  • To generate authentic, segmented and individualised communication and messaging

Design your loyalty program so there is a ladder that customers can climb. There should be multiple rungs that your customers can climb. This will keep your customer coming back and increase his or her emotional commitment to your brand.

Customer loyalty is created not just through a single program, but also through consistent marketing and actions. However, a good loyalty program can increase the revenues from your best customers and increase loyalty from your less-profitable customers.

To build an Evergreen Ladder of Loyalty, you’ll need to follow six steps.

Step One: Define your objectives.

Step Two: Determine what you want to learn about your customers.

Step Three: Design your loyalty program.

Step Four: Identify how you will measure success.

Step Five: Construct your program.

Step Six: Constantly surprise your customers with added perks.

 

 

Growth Hacks and The Illusive Silver Bullet…

We live in the age of instant noodles.

We look for ‘instant’ hockey stick exponential growth.
Hoping that this new widget / tool / hire / service will be the silver bullet for growth.

Its probably quite counter-intuitive for me as a Growth Marketer to call BS on that – but hey I have always been honest and the first to call out BS when I see it.

I think there are many different stages to a business – not all stages are ‘growth hack-able’ or meant to even be ‘growth hacked’.

I remember telling restaurants back when we launched foodpanda – “We are just a delivery platform – we can help in facilitating convenience and improving distribution of your food. We can’t help you if your food sucks”.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so blunt.

The early days of any venture is to get the basics right.
To understand your product, service and most importantly regular paying customers.
I emphasize – regular paying customers.

Not all customers are created equal unfortunately.
The ones that really matter are the ones that are regular and that would pay full price for your product / service. The rest are just noise.
If you don’t have enough of regular paying customers – you are either barking up the wrong tree or the problem that you are solving isn’t worth solving (or so your customers think).

Once you have the basics down to pat.
Its about looking at which channels bring you the most results.
Most often for entirely new products it would be offline or ancillary online.

Back when we started foodpanda – the search volume for food delivery wasn’t great.
As I recalled it was less than 1K searches per month on Google.
So it was almost like educating the market that there are other alternatives besides pizza and fast food that can be delivered.
We had to start with food bloggers and e-commerce partners – these are ancillary online partners.
Food bloggers would get us foodies who wished that the restaurant was closer to their homes / can be delivered and e-commerce folks are people comfortable parting with their cash (or credit card information) based on picture descriptions on a screen while waiting for the item to be delivered (extra difficulty when they are hungry).

The education and mindset shift took some time – the way we brought the message across wasn’t always clear – we struggled for a bit trying to communicate our value proposition. But we learnt along the way that what we were selling besides just food delivery service was convenience and time saved.

All this while trying to fix the product (last mile delivery, customer service, product features) while balancing company morale, expectations from HQ and obviously competition.

As much as others would say focus on your own race – the reality is that unless you are doing something 10X, you should never underestimate your competition.

The fancy growth hacks are more experiments based on hypothesis built on the product, UI/UX, customer experience from a proven (or at very least clearly defined) product / customer base.
Else – it will be just as good as buying a WSO and building a short game IM scheme.

Growth hacks are by no means a silver bullet – rather calculated optimizations to improve customer acquisition, activation, retention, revenue and referral.

My Current Thoughts on Startups / Businessess

I was just talking to a friend of mine on Facebook summarizing my current thoughts on the state of startup’s / businesses. Added a bit more to add some context to my current thought process:

“Most of the new startups start with business models that have eventual tipping points of success. Where its a zero to one / monopolistic / only one winner takes all approach.

This makes the unit economics sometimes not making too much sense.

I just want to start something simple…that makes good money to solve simple real world problems where I can add value by providing a better customer experience.
For example an agency – its all done before. Proven business model. Things that have been done before and sometimes seem un-sexy is where the money is at.

Its nothing too game changing, I just need to set up and automate enough processes to make it as efficient as possible.

That is a business.

Low Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), high Lifetime Value (LTV).

Then just spend the time to oil the mechanism – getting better acquisition channels and strategies, better onboarding process, better re-engagement processes to up sell / down sell and cross sell various related solutions that solve the customer’s pain point.

And obviously deliver value.

I think venture backed stuff should deal with more real world issues – like eliminating hunger or something that has no real commercial value but brings up quality of life for those who do not enjoy the same quality of life us.”

 

Updates – June to November…

I have been putting this off for the longest time.

Trust me – the action item “blog” has been on my Weekly To Do list for the past few weeks.
Speaking of which – I have re-started to plan my weeks and to some extent my days.
I have been re-imagining my workflow / processes for the past few weeks.
Tweaking and fine tuning how best to optimally live and function – getting past the resistance of action.

So I finally decided to just “finish” all projects that I have been putting off
– and decided either to pick up where I have left off (and finish if possible), set a date to start or just abandon the project altogether.
Its quite liberating to be able to tie up loose ends and pave the way forward.

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So just some updates on what has been brewing for the past few months.

I launched honestbee Malaysia, hired the team, set up operations, got the initial setup up and running.
Since then, I have moved over to Singapore – to be an Entrepreneur-In-Residence with Konica Minolta’s Business Innovation Centre.

I have always been curious on what exactly do innovation centres do.
Plus I wanted to expose myself to the B2B aspects of startups.
I currently overlook the F&B, Retail, Travel and Hospitality vertical – widening my previous last mile delivery, food / grocery delivery pigeonhole.

I have always been in consumer facing tech (foodpanda, honestbee and previously with a retail bank – not in tech per say).
I have come to the conclusion that unless you have something very cost effective (read: as close to free) – the mass consumer is too fickle to know what they want – and even when they do – they are not willing to pay a premium for it.

Sure – there’s being back in a corporate job and not being able to pull cowboy feats and asking for forgiveness later.
Sure – I currently don’t have a team to lead and for the most bit I need to swim with the tide to keep afloat.
Sure – I miss the grind of a fast moving environment that’s all about bringing nothing to reality.

But I figured life is a journey of moving from side to side and keeping in a state of motion.
Just like a workout – you need to stretch and tear your muscles to make way for new muscles and more energy.

And I am very sure this will not be permanent.
And I am sure – I am meant for greater, better things.

Of Shortcuts and U-Turns

Being human we often do what comes most easily to us.
Call it human nature. Call it being lazy. Call it a character flaw.

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Just 3 weeks ago I thought of doing just that.

Updating my blog with a book review / read through since I am reading the book / going through the courses in any case.
But unfortunately the direction took a nose dive.

Why?

Suddenly I am no longer taking the courses or reading the book as I normally would.
Suddenly reading a book / course is an “event”.

I find this true to when I am working out, meditating and most other habits / rituals in life.
When I make too big a deal out of it – nothing good comes out of it.

I simply drop out of doing it.

Once again – confronted by what seems to be the shortest point between two dots – this turned out to be a dud.

I would still update the blog with my book review but not as a grand big-ass project.

 

Where Is This Blog Heading To?

I believe its true when they say good writing is a function of clear thinking.
I have been mulling about on the best way to structure my current blog / content.
Do I go more personal? Or maybe a bit more on my interests? Or just pure marketing / startup related content?I think it’s both the misgiving of my part of not being able to pen my thoughts in a linear / concise fashion and also not wanting to give too many comments on some of the things I see / do due to private and professional reasons. Call me chicken shit. I don’t care. LOL.I have also been looking to explore different mediums including Medium and YouTube.
I might consider doing videos instead of writing as I have been told I have the gift of the gap. Go figure.I have recently been playing about with Snapchat – if you are there do add me up, my UserID is sidneyng.

Speaking of communications – I have come to believe that everything we do – how we communicate, what we do everyday, what we create is really just an extension of ourselves and our reality.

 


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Sounds very meta and out there. I know. But bear with me for a bit.

But back to marketing and startups:.
I would like to think that your product / service / solution is there to make the world a better place.

And a job of the marketer is to paint that ideal world scenario picture and how using the product or service – your reality and worldview will change for the better.
I digress.
So – I decided to use my blog primarily to document what I read / learn from sites / blogs related to marketing / startups etc.
I will put in my own comments and thoughts in the post as well.
This is a 2 prong approach to keep myself accountable to finish books (or at least learn what I need to) and to share what I learn / my thoughts to the three of you who come to my blog.
It’s a book review + commentary + self accountability tool. I tried Goodreads – which just made me end up buying more unread books.
Just a note: I read a few books at once. – For variety and to deal with ADHD. sic.
These posts will be “live” posts – I will constantly update as and when I read.
I will do summaries of 5 key take-aways (or more) and put them on Medium.
Let’s see where do we go from here.
Here’s to starting the middle of the year as a Creator 😉

The Trickster

I really enjoyed this article about “Tricksters” who “bend reality”.

The Trickster has appeared in Jungian archtypes and also in Joseph Cambell’s work.
It appears in playing cards as The Joker card and in Tarot as The Fool.

 

Few interesting excerpts

.. “Trickster is the emotional body, our Inner Child or wounded soul, who evolves in our lifetimes as it spirals back to higher light.

The concept of the Trickster is as much a part of humanity’s history as the concept of God. All creational myths deal with polarity, good god vs. bad god, the duality of our nature and with each of us. To be emotionally challenged, is to listen to the voice of the trickster and live in a space of drama and negative emotions. To create balance is to live in the so-called ‘god aspect’ of who we are.

Physical reality is a game in which the Trickster challenges us at every turn. That is his role in the duality of this bio-genetic experiment in liner tome and emotion.

Trickster is the teacher, when you attract lessons into one’s life. With his lessons, he awakens us to who we are and allows us to explore the true purpose of our soul’s journey in the holographic experience through which we experience consciously at this level of awareness.

His energy allows us to break out of old stereotypes, whether they’ve been imposed by ourselves, our families, our culture, or circumstance. This is the energy that opens the world of limitless possibilities and it behooves us all to work with it before it destroys us, to touch the Trickster as he touches us.

Trickster is a teacher, survivor, hero, always traveling, outrageous and cunning, foolish and wise, mischievous and often doing good despite himself. He is a metaphor for the evolution of consciousness in the alchemy of time…”

 

“Trickster is at the same time, creator and destroyer, giver and negator, he who dupes others and who is always duped himself. He possesses no values, moral or social, is at the mercy of his passions and appetites, yet through his actions all values come into being. Many of the Trickster’s traits were perpetuated in the medieval jester, and have survived in the Punch-and-Judy plays and in the clown.

Few mythological figures have such a remote origin in time and broad distribution among cultures as the one called Trickster. This character has long puzzled its commentators, largely because Trickster defies any purely rational or intellectual analysis. In fact, anyone who has studied any particular trickster story can testify to its disturbing undertones of perplexity and provocation.

Trickster contains a transcendent nature whose epic qualities are truly awesome. We can think, for example, of when Maui, the Polynesian Trickster, snares nothing less than the sun. Yet with all his enormous power he is enormously stupid, the fool of the ages, the epitome or personification of human absurdity.

In world mythologies Trickster’s guises are legion; so much so that Joseph Campbell, has called him The Hero With A Thousand Faces.

This outlandish, yet remarkable being in human form, learns, grows in understanding, changes, and at a certain point in his adventuresome blunders, is transformed. Until that moment, however, Trickster keeps changing shape and experimenting with a thousand identities, including shifts in sex, in a seemingly never-ending search for himself.

During all this he inflicts great damage on those around him and also suffers innumerable blows, defeats, indignities, and dangers resulting from his thoughtless, reckless forays. On entering upon existence he is first seen as a blurred, chaotic, hardly unified being, having no self-knowledge or life-knowledge, despite his divine parenthood. It is only later on in his travels that Trickster emerges as a culture hero, demigod, and savior of peoples. But this occurs only after his transformation or self-integration takes place, and brings to the fore the great and epic qualities initially given him by his divine progenitor.”

The 2 Hidden Currencies

There are 2 hidden currencies that are worth much more than money.

Because come to think of it – you cannot eat money and in different countries for the most part- you can’t port over currencies.
With that logic, why do we value something that has just conceptual value?
Sure we need it to pay the bills – but that’s just an exchange of transaction rather than real value.
If it was real – MYR1 can be used anywhere in the world with the same value as USD1.

Currency. Taken from flickr image - https://www.flickr.com/photos/bradipo/1435739708

Currency. Taken from flickr image – https://www.flickr.com/photos/bradipo/1435739708

Cryptocurrency is currently the new in thing to “hack the system” – but its use is still not mass yet to make it universal or real in the true sense.

So, what are 2 hidden currencies that everybody has – but has been hidden from plain sight?

Time and Attention.

Looking at the English language – you “spend time” and “pay attention”

Attention and time is universal.
Whatever you spend more time in and pay attention to – becomes your reality.

Want more physical money? – then spend time and pay attention to opportunities out there.
Want better physical health? – spend more time in the gym and pay attention to what you consume.
Want better relationships? – spend more time with your loved ones and pay attention to what they have to say.

I honestly feel that the world is caught up by design to ensuring that individuals spend time and attention on the wrong things.

We spend our time trying to own things that end up owning us.
I remembered buying the Playstation 3 – and ended up spending so much time on the device and paying so much attention on new games coming out.
I ended up spending so much more money on games than actually enriching my own life.

When you stop to ask yourself why the sudden desire
– you find that often its misdirected by the media, by friends (who don’t know any better), by stresses of life (that drives you to want all the wrong things).

Notice – how this relates back to WHO you are paying attention to.

I believe ultimately – everyone wants just one thing: FREEDOM.

May it be financially or any other form.
But it has always been to be free.

We seek freedom in so many forms only to be imprisoned by what we were lead to believe as a path to freedom.

Thus, I have come to realize that we should seek 2 things: TRUTH and FREEDOM.

Freedom cannot come about without Truth.
We have been brought up in society to believe that Truth is difficult and / or subjective.
But rather – its perception of the Truth that is subjective.
Truth is universal.

As long as we exist in this physical world – we are bound by physical and the universal law of nature.
No escaping gravity unless you have an airplane – which is bound by the Law of Lift.

So – who are you paying attention to and what are you spending your time on?

Why Some Startups Are DOA

Some business ideas are just BAD.

Even the word bad is an understatement.
It is almost doomed to begin with.

Sure – some are uncommon successes that some might have thought they were crazy to even begin.
But I truly believe all successful startups have one thing in common.

They knew exactly who they were serving.

I don’t just use the word “KNOW EXACTLY” in passing.
But really know:

  • What their concerns were.
  • What keeps them up awake at night.
  • What makes them go “I wished they had X….”
  • What their interests were
  • Where they usually hang out
  • What are their political leanings like
  • How much they are willing to pay for a product / service
  • Why do they feel strongly over certain issues
  • Did their dog / cat really ate their homework

OK – so the last one was a stretch.

Without knowing (or at least having an idea) on who you are selling to – selling to everybody has always been a bad idea.

Your solutions would not be as targeted as they should be.
Your marketing message and value proposition would not be even remotely attractive.
Your prospect might not even feel that they need / would pay for what you are selling.

I always believe in sales or a business: You won’t make a sale when you are not selling to the right person or have the clarity of what you have to offer.

But notice – the entire thread still has elements of value creation.
Without value creation. You are not contributing to a better world and making a true difference.

So before you strut off a “really good startup idea” – would be good to first outline who you are selling to and how you can simplify / add value to their lives.
The execution usually falls in place when you get the basics right.

As Bruce Lee said

– “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”