Oct 29, 2013

Safe Sects


Chloe looked like the perfect match. Mid-30s, curvy, almond-eyed, fit (good shoulders), her ideal job a combination of circus performer and archaeologist. A writer, she wanted a man “who could make her laugh, slow dance, and read her between the lines." Marshall shifted his laptop. Was it too good to be true? He'd been disappointed in the past. Why was the photo so closely cropped? The last woman he'd met online had been using her younger, obviously adopted, sister's photo. ... And then there was the Wiccan. He’d ended up spending more time getting advice from his friend Ted than talking with his new date.
This is the fourth in a series of posts for product managers seeking relationships.  They start here.

Marketing is seduction.

We all know someone who brought a promising new relationship into their life, only to spend more time talking to telephone support people than enjoying the benefits. Perhaps you were the one they called. It's a painful experience. Disappointment is so much worse when you are already in love; so most prospective partners hold back at first. People want to think things over before making a commitment.

It's common today for people to research online, so it's important your proposition is able to stand up to scrutiny. Common factors influencing belief in your proposition include: familyconnectionsword-of-mouth, and dates.


People often look to brand or family as a mark of quality. The DNA of a proposition gives a generally reliable indication of quality, reliability, lifespan, and graceful aging. Family is also related to connectedness. It helps to be a Kennedy.


Those from less prestigious families may be consoled to know that many of the advantages of brand can still be gained through connections. Connectedness is within reach of all hopeful partners-to-be, and can be obtained by joining a connectivity platform. These come in many forms, including dating sites, social networks, organized religions, and product ecosystems. Whatever the form, connectivity platforms make hooking up easier.

Some connectivity platforms are easier to join than others. Judaism, for example, is difficult, requiring several years and much study to join. In contrast, joining the American National Rifle Association (NRA), is a straightforward matter of a few forms and a small fee, easily done on-line. For prospective partners, your participation in a connectivity platform is a mark of your underlying character.

Some connectivity platforms are more open than others. Closed platforms provide a more consistent experience, taking away basic, day-to-day concerns, allowing you to enjoy higher-level value. For example, The Church of Bible Understanding, asks members to break off communication with their families and external friends, in order to achieve peace. Similarly, Apple restricts your ability to connect with products belonging to the Android ecosystem. Think carefully before choosing to join a closed platform. The tradeoff for easier hook-up is often a smaller pool of prospective partners, and some loss of autonomy.

Many people find they covet services unavailable within their home ecosystem; and many enterprising business people make their livings helping people "hook up on the side," despite the fact that doing so often violates ecosystem agreements.


The recommendation of someone you trust can convince a prospective customer to take the next step. For example, a blind date arranged by a friend can ignite a relationship that would otherwise not have started. A good reader review on Amazon can lead you to read a book you would otherwise not have opened.

The stamp of approval from a recognized authority can also close the deal. Just as many people will only buy toothpaste certified by a professional dental organization, many prefer books that have won a literary prize. An endorsement by Oprah can turn a book into a bestseller. Many will only enter a serious relationship after their mother approves the prospective partner.

It's good if you can get on TV. Appearing in any public media stands as social endorsement in the eyes of prospective partners.


Try-before-you-buy is a traditional part of the partner on-boarding process – a time-proven way to build belief. It's an opportunity for prospective customers to take you home and see how you work. Try-before-you-buy lets your partners get familiar with what you have to offer, in a variety of situations, at their own pace.

Don't be dreamy-eyed. Unscrupulous customers may take advantage of your generosity without limit, with no intention of actual engagement. Set clear limits regarding what's on offer and for how long. Successful relationships are two-way streets. At the first sign that a customer isn't serious about moving into an engaged relationship, fire them. They're wasting your time.

next post: length don't matter

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If your interests extend to theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.

Oct 22, 2013



The first thing Robin noticed was his cologne. Across the room, she could see the fit young man holding a bottle of champagne, hair waxed erect on his head. He looked like a racecar driver on the winner’s podium, only younger, musclier, and from Bollywood. Robin was definitely attracted. She had heard of the band on his well-fitting T-shirt, "MILF". Maybe they could go to a concert. But what would her friends say about the tattoo on his neck ... and the 20-year age difference? No, it would be more trouble than it was worth. ...was that a tongue stud? Robin took another sip of her single malt whiskey and tuned back in to the conversation she was having with the dapper marketing professional who, if she thought about it, looked a bit like George Clooney, only in red pants and pointy brown shoes.
This is the third in a series of posts for product managers seeking relationships. They start here.

Do you have the customers you deserve?

Once you've got the attention of a prospective partner, will you be able to maintain their interest? Or will their gaze roll off you like tears down MAC waterproof foundation? To sustain the attention of a prospective partner, you must convey a compelling promise of things to come. The content of your promise will depend on the quirks of the prospective partners you seek engagement with.

Prospective partners are often concerned with compatibility: does your proposition fit well with the other parts of their established ecosystem? Will hook-up be trouble-free? Will information transfer be uncomplicated? Will mother approve? These can be deal breakers. Your promise should reassure as well as entice.

Qualities inappropriate for longer-term relationships are, inconveniently, often the most attractive. So explicit promises can be counterproductive. Although an explicit proposition may catch your prospective partner's eye, they will usually turn away after an instant because, in the long run, "cheap and cheerful" propositions too often turn out to be "stupid and noisy."

Subtlety is required. Implicit promises hint at more complex satisfactions in store, if your prospective partner is willing to invest. An implicit promise is more likely to lead to engagement.

Explicit is mind-numbing

Implicit is intriguing
Implicit propositions engage the imagination and arouse interest. Although implicitly suggestive propositions may not turn as many heads as overt ones, they are more effective in engaging eligible customers (the type you want to have a long term relationship with), and carrying them through to the next level of commitment.

next post: safe sects

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If your interests extend to theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.

Oct 15, 2013

Turnover and Churn


Naomi came to the party dressed as slut; but it wasn't working. Plus, she was cold. Most of the other guests wouldn’t even hold eye contact with her. Only the drunks came to talk to her, and so far, none of them had been able to hold a conversation. Even the women were avoiding her. The guy who brought her was deep in conversation with Snow White. This wasn’t working out.
This is the second in a series of posts for product managers seeking relationships. Go to the first.

Your customers are your partners.

First rule of Attraction: be in the right place at the right time. All things being equal, you will be more compellingly attractive to a prospective partner when you are standing within grasp in front of them than, say, away doing charity work in Mali. As the song says, "you gotta love the one you're with".

Where you should be, exactly, depends on who you are trying to attract. The first step towards long-term rewarding relationships involves careful thinking about the type of partner you are looking for.

Do you have a specific type of partner in mind? …Or will you solicit anyone and everyone? The latter may seem like your only choice if what you have to offer is cheap and not much different from what others have to offer. (In some parts of Australia, this latter approach is known as "the town bike.") But an unfocussed approach is usually counter-productive over time. You will work hard, with little to hold on to after each exchange. Expect high rates of turnover and churn. The big numbers may impress your competitors and colleagues, but you won't be any better off. No one is going to get engaged.

Many entrepreneurs thrive happily in high-churn markets; however, relationships you develop with your partners in such an environment will be superficial and fleeting, leaving you vulnerable to new entrants. Don't expect loyalty from your partners when the next attractive new kid shows up on the block.

If you do find yourself unhappily moving constantly between high traffic venues in search of new partners, then don't despair. You can change your situation. Take a step back from the daily beat and think about your partners. Do some of them have specialized needs that are not well served by your competitors? Partners with particular desires will value your specialized attention more highly, and you will have fewer competitors. Perhaps you could focus on them. These partners will be looking for someone like you.

In marketing speak: better segmentation leads to better penetration.

next post: promiscuity

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If your interests extend to theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.

Oct 8, 2013

How I Met Your Customer

Market like a Pro

Barney was not getting lucky. He had mastered the principles of The Game, targeting high volumes of prospective partners with carefully crafted campaigns, across multiple venues, including dating sites and "pop-ups" in popular local drinking establishments. The approach yielded a low yet consistent percentage of partners, but with more than enough conversions to keep him at it full time. In fact, he was performing at slightly above capacity – but quality was beginning to suffer. Despite his success, he was unsatisfied. Barney felt he deserved more.
This is the first in a series of posts for product managers seeking relationships.

An engineer friend was interested in music. He studied waveforms, frequencies, harmonics and notation. Sorry to say, his music sucked. Because Music is not analytical, it is about human emotion. Marketeers make the same mistake when they get lost in Search Engine Optimization, big data, segmentation, and analytics. Why? Because, like Music, Marketing is about emotions. More specifically, Marketing is about human relationships.

What's the best way to establish a lasting relationship? Look at how people are hooking up around you. The cultural practices surrounding courtship and marriage have evolved over generations. They contain the accumulated wisdom of the ages on how to build long-lasting, rewarding human relationships. This series of posts will look at marketing through the lens of a modern marketeer seeking to hook up.

Consider human relationships as partnerships. Lasting partnerships are built on a mutual and sustainable exchange of value. In life partnerships such as marriage, the currency of exchange includes empathy, understanding, comfort, social status, money, physical comfort. In Business, your customer is your partner, and the currency of exchange is the same, only with more emphasis on money.

Propositional Logic

Marketing is about selling yourself.
Relationships can be understood in terms of the 4P’s: People Propositioning Prospective Partners. The concept of proposition is central to this formulation, and the least familiar to most marketeers. Consider what proposition means at the various stages of a relationship:

1. Attraction

In the very early stages of a relationship, even before that first twinkle in the eye, proposition equals attraction. Your chances of any relationship depend on your being noticed, which depends on your attractiveness.

...read more here.

2. Promise

Once you have caught the eye of your potential customer, your proposition amounts to the promise of benefits to come. ...read more here.

3. Belief

To tempt your customer, your proposition must hold up to scrutiny – it must be believable. To get to the next stage, you must convince your prospective customer of your authentic good faith and ability to deliver. ...read more here.

4. Performance

When your prospective customer decides to go with you, your proposition becomes a matter of performance. Simply delivering what you promised is not enough. If you want to see your customer again, you must also surprise and delight. ...read more here.

5. Fulfillment

If all goes well, you and your partner will progress to the final, enduring, phase of your relationship: ongoing fulfillment. ...read more here.

Future posts will examine in explicit detail what happens when love and commerce intertwine.

next post: turnover and churn

Thanks for reading! Please share this post.
Comments invited.

If your interests extend to theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.

Oct 1, 2013

One Direction


A distracting image (DigitalCirce)
Kim watches The Verge videos for the tech news. Tony watches them for the hairstyles. Understanding the direction of involvement can give insight into why your proposition is succeeding or failing.

Direction: the focus or target of involvement.

For example, a user’s involvement in an RSS newsreader, such as Flipboard, or Feedly, may be directed toward:
If customers say they love your app, but no one uses it, you may have misdirected your design efforts. An engaging user interface should not distract from the core value of the proposition. Nor will a beautiful design will not compensate for an irrelevant proposition; an approach known in the trade as lipstick on a pig. Your job as a designer is to help your customer get the most value out of the proposition. Sometimes, to get the most value out of your pig, you need to be a butcher, not a makeup artist*.
Flipboard's beautiful user experience
The concept of direction of involvement is useful to help understand the user experience, and therefore where to focus your design efforts. Often, as was the case for the designers of Google Chrome, the best
design decision is not be the object of involvement:
"We want the browser to feel like a natural extension of your will. It should feel fluid and delightful. It's about getting you to the information you need, not about driving a piece of software." (Chromium Project Core Principles)
A beautiful user experience may be engaging in itself; but the beauty should line up with the core proposition, not distract from it. For example, beautiful user experience is the core appeal of Flipboard, but content is still at the center of the experience. Any design solution that takes the direction of attention away from the content of the RSS feeds would undermine the proposition, rather than enhance it.

Bottom line

  • Design and proposition are a unity. They must not go in different directions.
  • The concept of direction of involvement gives insight into user experience, and is useful to set design priorities.
  • Understand the direction of your user’s involvement, and use your design to keep it focussed on your core proposition.
This is the final post in a series on Design for Customer Engagement. I'm planning a new series on the amazing similarities between Marketeers and the Sex Workers. Stay tuned!

Did I miss the point? Take the conversation in a new direction: Leave a comment below. Please engage.

If your interests extend to theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.

* No pigs were inappropriately attended to in the making of this article.