Alex Godin Writes a Blog

I'm Alex. I work on making Dispatch awesome. Sometimes I write down what I'm thinking about.

  1. "Many software teams use stand-up meetings to keep everyone on the same page and maintain accountability. Stand-ups are great but they have some major flaws: they’re synchronous, everyone needs to be in the room (or on the phone), and often after the meeting much of the content is lost. At Dispatch we’ve been trying something a bit different and it’s been working really well. We call it Show and Tell."

    ― Just wrote a post on standups over on Svbtle. http://weblog.alexgodin.com/kill-your-standup

  2. Stop Hustling, Start Listening

    You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you. - Dale Carnegie

    Members of the startup community misinterpret the hardworking “hustle” ethos that’s become a part of startup culture and become hype-networkers. People with good intentions end up alienating the people around them by asking instead of giving and talking instead of listening.

    Every tech meetup or event has that one person who’s racing around trying to collect as many business cards as possible. They’re a power networker, building their network by adding names to a list instead of fostering real relationships. When push comes to shove, the “networks” they’re building don’t feel any reason to help them.

    Instead of hustling and networking, your time is much better spent being a human being. Listen to others, engage with them, have a conversation, become friends. Be interesting enough that they’re eager to see you and hear from you. When they do something cool, send them an email and congratulate them. Instead of networking, scampering around trying to build your LinkedIn profile, build lasting relationships with people you respect.

    When you show people respect, something magical happens, people respect you back and it pays off. Suddenly, they want to help you win.

    There is only one way… to get anybody to do anything. And that is by making the other person want to do it. - Dale Carnegie

  3. How to Get Lost users to Come Back to Your Product - Five Lessons From Facebook

    image

    The email - some names and photos blurred

    One of the biggest challenges with free products is getting users to come back. Often times we end up with “tire-kickers” – people who sign-up, click around, and never return. These are people who might be interested in your product, but haven’t started using it regularly. The problem is universal; everyone from small startups to giants like Facebook have to overcome it.

    I recently got a taste of Facebook’s answer to this challenge and I was pretty blown away.

    Five years ago I signed up for a dummy Facebook account with an email address I rarely check. Yesterday, after signing in for the first time in a while I noticed that my inbox was filled with emails from Facebook trying to get me to sign up. Facebook must have tested this email like crazy and I was struck by how effective it must be.

    Every startup should be sending emails this good. Here are my five key takeaways:

    1: Social Proof

    Everything in this email is designed to induce FOMO. The subject line specifically calls out people it thinks I know. If all the cool kids are on Facebook, I’m more likely to sign up. How can you get your inactive users to feel like theyneedto become active?

    2: Be persistent

    I signed up for this account and I still get emails every 3-5 days reminding me to sign-up. Facebook knows that once I’m hooked they’ll see me come back regularly and they can make a bunch of cash. Facebook isn’t afraid of sending too many emails because they know that the payoff is big enough. How often do you send your emails?

    3: Have a clear goal

    Facebook knows that if they can get me to 7 friends they can count on me coming back again and again. The email they send has one goal: get me to add friends. It’s got clear calls to action, buttons within the email that are begging me to click them. If you could have every inactive user do one action, what would it be?

    4: Be clever (Use your data)

    Facebook figured out who to feature by matching my email address to scans of contact lists from the “find friends” feature. What data do you have that could be helpful in sending lifecycle emails?

    5: Ask a question

    Data shows that emails with questions in the subject perform much much better. Facebook does a nice job of asking a question that draws the user in. Do you ask questions in subject lines?

    Facebook took years to develop these emails and I’m sure they’ve perfected them against piles and piles of data. By following their lead startups can get a leg up on the competition and better engage their users.

  4. Marketing lessons from Macklemore

    Last month, Macklemore's hit single Thrift Shop went platinum. Macklemore didn’t take the traditional route to a million downloads. He’s got no label, and he raps about gay rights, substance abuse and his lyrics reference Malcom Gladwell.

    Macklemore’s rise to fame has been nothing short of extraordinary and it wasn’t a fluke. He’s really good at marketing himself. In fact, most companies could learn a few things about marketing from Ben Haggerty.

    1. Pick A Fight

    Macklemore isn’t just an independent artist. He aggressively goes after the labels. On Jimmy Iovine he writes,

    I replied I appreciate the offer, thought that this is what I wanted
    Rather be a starving artist than succeed at getting fucked

    Macklemore’s story has an enemy. It breeds support, his fans feel like, by supporting Macklemore, they’re sticking it to the man and helping him on his quest. He’s building his brand on the backs of the labels without having to give them a cut. Being independent defines macklemore, he’s become “that independent rapper”.

    Some of the most successful startups have started out by creating beef with a bigger competitor. Just look at Uber’s all out war with Taxi Commissions, Box’s fight with Sharepoint and Salesforce’s battle with all of software. Companies like WePay are defining themselves by their competitors and using it.

    WePay brought a 600 pound block of ice to the paypal conference

    2. “Leave No Seat Unsold” (Start small and build your tribe)

    Macklemore and his producer Ryan Lewis recently explained that, “the idea is to have 300 people at a 300-capacity venue who loved it, then the next time there we can do 600 to 1,000 and you go and grow from there”. Instead of going for broke all at once, they slowly built their tribe piece by piece.

    Etsy didn’t launch with a million sellers on day one. They built a community bit by bit. Airbnb started out pitching “ninth graders with three readers”. On the other hand, Airtime did the opposite, they blew millions of dollars on a star studded launch. Instead of carefully building a community, they saw a blip on the first few days and a slump ever since. Color, had the same problems.

    Gary Vaynerchuk is the posterchild for this. When he recorded his first winelibrary video he didn’t have a million twitter followers. Gary built his following day by day over the course of 5 years.

    3. Be outlandish (design is marketing)

    Macklemore doesn’t look like Jay-Z or Eminem, or any other rapper. He’s known for his hipster look, a love of outlandish thrift store clothing and an obnoxious fade haircut. He’s setting himself apart through his looks.

    When you look at companies like Pinterest, Wander, or Branch one of the keys to their successes have been interfaces that feel like works of art.

  5. Understanding Snapchat

    Snapchat seems to be the new hotness with the tech press these days. No one seems to understand what people are using it for but they’re excited about it. The concept is simple; it’s a photo-messaging app where the photos disappear after being opened by the recipient. The app was clearly designed for sexting (although, the founders deny it) but it’s been co-opted for another use.

    Last night, Eva explained to me that she’s sent 927 “snaps” since installing the app last month. The contents? “Selfies,” pictures of herself. 99 percent of the Snaps she sends are pictures of herself usually making a silly face. She sends 15+ snaps a day with pictures of herself along with a silly caption or drawing.

    People are definitely using Snapchat for sexting. Eva claims that only a small portion of her Snapchat addicted friends are using it for sexting. Instead, her entire freshman dorm sends selfies to one another, endlessly.

    Why did Snapchat spread so fast and why is it so addictive? It seems like the app is designed to tap into the user’s vanity. It’s all the excitement of taking a picture of yourself without any of the self-conciousness. Because the photos disappear seconds after sending them, Eva and her friends often try as hard as possible to make the photos unattractive. They don’t have to worry about them ending up on Facebook.

    People are quick to compare Snapchat to Instagram but, to me, it feels more like Draw Something (which turned out to be a passing fad).

    Instagram is all about sharing a moment with your social circle. Every time I share a photo on Instagram I’m sharing something new with my followers. Every photo on Instagram is different. I’m generating something that’s new and unique.

    On the other hand, Snapchat is repetitive. The way Eva and her friends use it, every photo they share is basically the same. I’m not convinced that it will be as exciting to them in 6 months.

    The Snapchat team has an opportunity to take advantage of their massively engaged user base. They can release features that keep the app exciting and relevant by expanding the use case.

    Last week, they pushed an update with video features. Maybe video will change the way people use it and make it less repetitive.

    The other challenge Snapchat has is monetization. It seems like a tough app to monetize although I’m sure that, in today’s startup climate they’ll be able to delay figuring that out for a while.

  6. Mars Rover

    2 weeks ago, the Curiosity rover landed on Mars. Think about it. There is a fucking robot on mars.

    Humans are remotely controlling a robot from 158 million miles away and gathering data that will help us put a man on Mars.

    Now, tell me your startup is going to “change the world”.

    People living in the Hacker News startup bubble are quick to point out that their MoSoLo startup is going to change the world. Really? Sure, building fill-in-the-blanks web and mobile companies is fun. How are you changing the word?

    Maybe, we need to change what we do. Think bigger. Build things that don’t fit a mold.

    On the other hand, maybe the answer is to acknowledge it. The stuff we’re building is fun, it’s exciting, and it’s a heck of a lot easier than putting a robot on mars.

    Just a thought…

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