Grinding

There are particular kinds of games where you have to spend alot of time doing simple things to get your level up. An example is killing a million squirrels in the forest so you can buy the sword to go after a dragon in a cave. This technique is called grinding.

Some games specialize in this kind of play. The psychology is pretty interesting. It clearly hits a part of my brain that is difficult to shut off. I feel like I can’t stop grinding. Madden NFL Mobile has a serious grinding mentality. I find myself needing to do it at night before I go to sleep. I know that reading a book is better for me, but I think I have some DNA that predisposes to grinding.

I think I grind in real life too. Creating Docs.marketo.com took 3 years of grinding. Designing and building a product is also a grind. You add one feature at a time to build a whole over the course of years.

Another example of this is the Primitive Technology video series. I love watching these videos. They calm the inner part of my soul. This guy is in the woods and builds things with his hands, rocks, water and trees.

To build something great you have to build a series of little things first. Being a great professional in any job means doing the same thing. It means grinding towards that future. Build up your assets one piece at a time.

When people talk about grit, I think of that as the ability to grind. I think they are two sides of the same coin.

What ruins grinding is when you perceive other people succeeding without it. Maybe they “knew the right person” or maybe they were better looking or maybe they just got lucky. I have heard plenty of stories of people making millions without contributing towards that success. One guy joined Marketo a few weeks before all the stock was fast-forwarded and vested and paid out. He made millions and quit a few weeks later. Totally lucky and unfair, but such is life.

I could dwell on this, but it would only make me unhappy. Rather, I should focus on the grind in front of me. Build something great, keep building. I don’t think of grinding as unpleasant. It actually makes me feel focused. I am moving the ball forward each day.

An ABM Adventure

I am Head of Product for Engagio, a SaaS application with lots of features and users who use them. (Is there any other type of SaaS application?)

Warning: This blog post throws data around the web with total abandon and gets confusing. You have been warned.

My Mission: To activate and spur usage in the system.

First Step: Usage Tracking
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. (Thanks, Avinash for that lesson over 10 years ago.) We use Pendo for application usage tracking and other stuff. We spent a few weeks tagging every feature in the app and rolling up those features so we can have usage charts like this:

Users –> Contacts
The next step was to get users from the application into Salesforce. This required some engineering help (Thanks, Shaun and Abhishek!). We had some issues with parsing Full Name into First and Last Name. Plus we ended up with some duplicates before we tweaked the system to get it just right. Finally, all users were automatically created in Salesforce as contacts.

Segmentation
I wanted to focus on the group of people that I would have the most success with. I thought the Sales users with some usage in one part of the product but not the other would perfect. However, I didn’t have everything I needed to do that. We used a series of partners, ClearBit, UpWork, LinkedIn, and their user profile to create a field called Best Title.

By using Marketo, we automatically had those contacts sync down to the marketing automation system. I used a smart campaign to use all of those possible titles to create one field called Best Title. Then I used the Marketo Segmentation tool to group different titles into departments. Sales, Marketing, Ops, Executives, etc. I still have some that defy interpretation. However, I had my department segment.

Usage Fields
We created several different fields in Salesforce/Marketo called Pendo (Feature) Usage 7d.  I chose 7 days as a decent measurement of activity, but I imagine we will need 14 or 30 days in the future. I also created definitions for Alive (Normal Use), Dead (No Use) and Life Support (Minimal Use).

Last Mile for the Data
Finally, we figured out how to pump the usage data from Pendo into Salesforce which would sync down to Marketo. I could then make smart lists of the different segment/usage patterns and craft a report that had roles and usage in a matrix. Also, I could pick the particular segment I wanted. (Sales users with one product use, but not another.)

Taking Action
I didn’t just want to send a mail blast to these users. What would be the point? You can’t spur action with a generic message. It has to be specific. This is where we come full circle back into Engagio. I created a Play to reach out to this segment. It wasn’t super complicated.

  • Step 1: A personalized email
  • Step 2: Wait for a week and check their usage
  • Step 3: LinkedIn connection request

By setting up a trigger, I could have this play automatically kicked off and give me tasks to do. The email looked/felt/was totally hand-written, but the system lets me scale that effort to reach more people easier. Plus, it kept track of who I reached out to so I could follow up without needing to create a bunch of tasks in my calendar.

Results
I just got started with this initiative, but so far I have a 50% reply rate. Not click rate or open rate. This is a REPLY!  Most of the replies have indicated that they were unaware of the feature. I follow up with each person to see how we can get them aware. Plus, I am working with our onboarding team to make sure we focus on awareness in the product rollout.

Account Based Journeys
Everyone knows Top of Funnel. This is going on a journey from never having heard of a product to closing the sale. You can break this down into funnels like Aware, MQA (Marketing Qualified Account), SQA (Sales Qualified Account), Opportunity, Closed-Won. In addition, there are other journeys such as:

  • Onboarding
  • Healthy Usage
  • Advocacy
  • Renewal
  • Up-sell/Cross-sell

Each journey involves coordination/orchestration, communication (phone, email, direct mail), sales and messaging. Each journey does their job in a slightly different way, although they all share common characteristics. The one I was working on was Healthy Usage. I was using Sales, Marketing and Product functionality. I consider these systems to reside in the same “cloud”. Data should move fluidly from one system to the next.

I think this little adventure is hard for people to wrap their heads around, but the results are important. I believe Marketers need to wrap their heads around projects like this if they want to expand their career horizons and become more strategic. Hopefully, you found it useful and entertaining.

Why I eat food

I can think of five reasons I eat food.

  1. Hunger
  2. Boredom
  3. It tastes good
  4. Food is in front of me
  5. Other people are eating in front of me

Hunger
I almost never eat food because I’m hungry. When I was 17 I was hungry all the time. I could eat ALL DAY. However, this has waned for me in recent decades. I don’t think I have been truly hungry all year. I know there are plenty of people in the world who are hungry. I am just not one of them. Let’s call this 0%.

Boredom
I’d say I eat because of boredom about 5% of the time. Not that often, and it usually is on the weekends if I am by myself. It kills time and is something to do.

It tastes good
This is true for probably 20% of all my food. Specifically, if I make a meal and it’s too much food, I will keep eating until it’s gone. Maybe it’s my heritage that I was brought up to not waste food, but I have alot of trouble stopping mid-meal. In most restaurants, the portion size is twice what I truly need. Finishing meals is not a virtue.

Food is in front of me
Let’s say I am at a party and there are hors d’ ordres being served. I will eat it even if it tasted bad. It’s one of those things where the food calls out to you like a Greek siren in Odysseus. This isn’t all that often, maybe another 5%.

Other people are eating in front of me
Let’s call it 70% of the time, I eat because it’s a social setting like a family dinner or team lunch. I can’t just sit at a table while other people eat. Even if the food is terrible, even if I am not hungry, I will at least pick at the food. I went to a family event on the east coast last month and they had all kinds of eating moments. Pre-party, morning brunch, lunch, dinner, etc etc etc. I found myself eating WAY more than normal. Most of the food I eat is in social situations. When I am alone for a day or two, I eat less. My doctor said that “3 square meals a day” a fiction foisted on us by lobbyists of farmers and other food industry companies. They wanted to sell more food. We don’t need three meals a day. We are actually fine with just one.

DISCLAIMER
None of this is meant as a diet or a suggestion of how to lose weight. It’s just an introspective look at myself. I find looking at details of one’s life is an excellent exercise for the designer’s mind.

Update
At the beginning of the year, I had this weird thing where I wasn’t very hungry. I started losing weight because I was eating about half as much food. I have had no other symptoms since then. I think that last year, I ate for the same reasons as above, but I just had no desire to stop. I just kept stuffing food in until I couldn’t eat another bite. Since losing weight, I have tried to make it a habit to avoid eating as much as I did previously. I hope that habit will stick for the long term.

 

Sphere of Influence, Control, Concern

An interesting way to frame an employee is by spheres, specifically three of them:

  • Sphere of Control is the stuff you can decide on your own. This is people you manage and project you do the work personally.
  • Sphere of Influence is stuff that you can guide through collaboration or subtle techniques. Your friendly co-worker is part of your sphere of influence.
  • Sphere of Concern is stuff you care about but you have no way to influence it. This might be happenings in other departments in which you don’t have strong connections.

Let’s take a look at some different circle widths and how they change things.

The Influencer
These are the best people in an organization. They don’t control a whole lot, but they influence a ton of things. Product Managers usually have little managerial control, but work with many people in the company. In general, you want people like this. However, they can get very unhappy if their sphere of influence diminishes. I used to be a person like this at Marketo. I had the ear of many of my fellow co-workers. Unfortunately, under one of my less favorite bosses, my influence slowly melted away. (long frustrating story) That left me in the state of the next archetype.

The Complainer
I became the complainer because I had this little tiny sphere of control, not much smaller than my sphere if influence. Most people hate to be in this position, and I certainly did. The problem with this diagram is that the sphere of concern is enormous, but the person can’t do anything about it.

The Individual Contributor
See how much better this is? They have the same influence and control as above, but they have a much smaller sphere of concern. They are happy because their world is smaller and their ability to influence their sphere of concern is “proportional”. That’s a key insight here. Proportionality is the key to success and happiness. Don’t let your sphere widths get out of whack.

The Group Manager
Of course, you can give someone more power, more control by promoting them and giving them many people to manage. If they have a circle like the following then I would propose they should care more about the other areas of the company.

The Perfect Balance
The best situation is when you balance out people’s aspirations of concern and their influence and control. You generally want people to be influential, but not at the cost of their own areas or their sanity.

Is this blog post the most wisdom filled block of text I ever wrote? Probably not, but they can’t all be zingers. I need to keep it balanced!

The Sweet Spot

There are many manifestations of the sweet spot.  Some examples:

Product Strategy
In this image, the sweet spot is avoiding competition while also focusing on what you do best. If you focus on the customer needs and ignore your own capabilities then you run the risk of failure to execute. If you only focus on what you can achieve, you might not find a market. If you drift too close to the competitors it creates other problems.

Sports
This image of a gold club shows how hitting the wrong part of the club yields a bad shot. There really isn’t alot of space for doing it right. You either hit the sweet spot or you have a lousy shot. I find tennis has the same effect.

Your Career
It’s tough to manage your career, but this chart shows how many people end up unhappy. Each circle is important and you need to balance them out.

 

Marketing
I’ve seen marketing go awry hundreds of times. My first product had terrible marketing despite being a good technology. I’ve also seen the opposite. The sweet spot is a balance.

One might argue that you can’t have it all. The sweet spot isn’t trying to magically be great at everything. It’s a worldview, an approach to life that says not to be extreme. Don’t just focus on one issue. Balance the issues out.

One might argue that this will lead to Jack of All Trades, Master of None syndrome. Although this is possible, I think it’s not a bad outcome. I love people who can do lots of things. Being a utility player, someone who can be flexible is important. That doesn’t mean you are bad at everything, but you don’t have to sacrifice other good things and obsess just about the one.

Balance in life, balance at play, balance at work.  That is the true sweet spot.

The Death of the Unsubscribe Link

I’ve been getting alot of email lately from SDRs using tools like Salesloft, Tout and Outreach. I have noticed a couple of important trend occuring.

  1. There is no unsubscribe link
  2. There is no content, just a request for a meeting/conversation
  3. They are not personalized or interesting to me the recipient

It is hard not to think of these emails as spam. I assume the reply rate is dismal. Most importantly, I feel like all of the content marketing techniques learned over the past 10 years have been tossed out the window. I have questions:

  • Who is writing these emails?
  • How do I unsubscribe?
  • Are we witnessing the death of the unsubscribe link?
  • Is marketing and SDRs emailing the same people at the same time?
  • Are SDRs the new marketing department?

Think about that last one for a minute. If you, the marketer, sit idly by while your SDRs send your targets unsolicited emails, they are hurting your ability to engage and nurture those people. Just because technology lets you send emails to lots of people, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I actually heard of a company whose corporate IP was blacklisted for this kind of email.

When I reply to these SDRs (which I often do), I give them a haiku.

Not personalized
Do not see unsubscribe link
Please leave me alone

You can google me and find a dozen things that will get my attention. You can read my blog or twitter or watch past speeches I have given. Any kind of personalization will get my attention. I still might not be the right persona for your company or care at all about your service, but at least I will treat you as a human being.

The unsubscribe link exists for a reason. It is when you send bulk mail with no personalization. There are laws that try and protect the rights of recipients from getting spam. These tools are blatently side-stepping these rules.

The point here is about choosing a side. Either send a truly customized email or include the unsubscribe link. What side are you on? Do you even know what your SDR team is doing?

I think I am going to start a kickstarter project called “Save the Unsubscribe Link”. The way it would work is when an email is uncustomized with no unsubscribe link, it will send 10 messages in reply every hour for 72 hours. The content will be the above Haiku. Anyone want to be the first to fund the project?

Myers Briggs 2017

I had another Myers-Briggs for an executive team offsite this month. Previously my tests in 2014 yielded these results:

2014 INFP
Introvert(11%) iNtuitive(75%) Feeling(12%) Perceiving(33%)

  • Slight preference of Introversion over Extraversion (11%)
  • Distinct preference of Intuition over Sensing (75%)
  • Slight preference of Feeling over Thinking (12%)
  • Moderate preference of Perceiving over Judging (33%)

They call this personality type, the Mediator/Idealist.

This time I resulted in INTJ, also known as the Architect/Mastermind.

The different tests didn’t give me the same preference statistics, but the above shows the equivalent. I don’t have a strong preference for anything apparently. The descriptions of the personalities both match me somewhat. The moderator thought I showed extroverted tendencies, which always conflicts with how tired/uncomfortable I get in group settings like parties. I am obviously a conundrum for these things.

Here is a breakdown of my sub preferences.

I don’t know. I am not sure how useful this all is for me. I want to feel special, like a unique snowflake. The two reports both can be applied to me with some flaws.

How well do these things work for you?

If you want, you can read my Myers-Briggs full report.