This week’s “Thursday Thoughts” is one in a series on Product Launches – a subject that I find fascinating and so important to growing a successful business.
So, what is the single most important ingredient of a great product launch? We need to look no further than the film (or movie) industry – and to a quote Shawn Amos:
“Every major summer blockbuster that is released is essentially a product line being launched across multiple verticals. However, the centerpiece of the product launch is a big, beautiful story whose job is to entertain.”
I believe that the single most important ingredient for any successful launch is to frame a “big, beautiful story whose job is to entertain”. Think about it. A story that describes a personal journey. Your personal journey with all the ups-and-downs and trials and triumphs that go to make us all human.
And so, in the closing two days of Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula (a once-in-a-year opportunity to see the master in action), Jeff has offered two personal but quite different stories that show how changing the way you think about a product by re-framing it around a product launch can literally transform people’s lives.
The first story is from Barry who overcame a life-changing accident to go on and organise and teach those who make a living from entertaining.
The second is from Shelly – a very different story of a mother trying to juggle the three forces of family, paying work and passion.
Watch the videos and work out what you can learn from each of them. See how the personal stories create a different way of thinking. By building your business around a series of launches (and great stories), rather than flogging a me-too product, you can create a new sense of drive and momentum. Think hard about how you can apply the learnings to (re-)launch your own products and services and create a new sense of purpose and heartbeat to your marketing campaigns.
Of all the research I have done into this area, Jeff’s strategies and teachings are second-to-none. And it can be applied to book launches too!
If you think that there is value in digging deeper into the Product Launch Formula, then I thoroughly recommend that you sign up for Jeff’s programme – which will only be available for the next day or two. Otherwise, you will have to wait another year for the offer to come around again!
Once upon a time in a land far from here there lived a wise King. As he neared the end of his life, his barons gained in strength and the King was forced to pass many laws which gave away power. The kingdom became a less certain place.
The King’s eldest son, (nicknamed “The Prince of Promises”) was a quiet and thoughtful man, but was unsure of his own position in the court. He was full of good ideas and promised many things to many people when he would become King – but few now listened to him for they thought his promises were empty.
Time passed and the King became ill. Whilst he lay on his death bed, the Prince asked his father “What is the one thing that you have learnt that you want to tell me before you pass on?”
The father said “Go and seek counsel from the wise man in the mountains. He has taught me so much. He lives in an old hut that has a blue door and with a yellow circle. Ask him about the story of the grains of salt”.
When the King finally passed away, there was a week of mourning. Soon after, the recently crowned Young King (who some now called the King of Promises) set off to the mountains to seek out the wise old man. The court, by then, was running itself with the barons creating much discontent and division in the lands.
After several weeks of travel through some very treacherous areas, the Young King arrived at a modest hut which had no sign, save the blue door with the yellow circle. He knocked and a voice said “Please come in”.
The wise old man was very natural and very gentle and said “Ah, you must be the Prince”. The Young King said “No longer a Prince. My father died last month and I am now King and have come to seek your counsel.”
Within the hour, the Young King was relaxed and finally mustered the courage to say to the wise old man “My father told me on his death bed to ask you about the story of the grains of salt. Can you tell it to me, please?”
The wise old man sighed and said “Of course!”. He lit up a pipe, drew deeply on it whilst closing his eyes. He then started to hum with a low droning noise before reopening his eyes. Looking directly at the Young Prince he started the story.
“When your father was much younger, the land was in chaos. There had been a civil war and the barons were very powerful. Your father had a good mind, which was full of many good ideas, but he had trouble putting them into practice. Before he had time to act on one thought, another would enter his mind. Maybe you have some of that in you?” he asked with a wry smile, knowing the Young King’s former nickname of the Prince of Promises.
The Young King nodded in agreement. The wise old man continued.
“Ideas are like grains of salt. There are many ideas and many grains of salt in this world. However, a single idea that is shaped into something that others understand is like 10 grains of salt. An idea that is shaped further into something that can help solve a problem is like 100 grains of salt. An idea that is shaped further into something that for people to buy because it is valuable to them is the equivalent to 1000 grains of salt. And an idea that is so useful that the majority of the kingdom will buy into it is worth a mountain of salt.”
“And so it is, Young King.” he continued. “Be careful about who you share your many ideas with and who you give your promises to. The effectiveness of your reign will be dissolved very quickly unless the ideas that you have are simple enough to explain and useful enough to grow into the larger mountains of wisdom that you will be remembered for.”
The Young King thanked the wise old man and a day or two later, he returned to the Capital of his Kingdom. On his return he spoke a lot less, gave out far fewer promises and was much more considered in his ideas and opinions. He also listened a lot more to his subjects before laying down any new laws. His subjects said that he had been transformed from the Prince of Promises into the King of Contemplation. Some even called him the Salt King – for he re-told the story to many in his court.
He ruled for a further 35 year and although he made very few new laws, each one was very effective. At his bequest, he was buried under a nearby mountain – which was made entirely of pink salt.
To this day, that mountain still exists in the Himalayas.
Last Thursday, I had a meeting with a business colleague. We had only met once before – but somehow the energy felt really good between us. Conversation flowed. Ideas bubbled to the surface. Creative spirit abounded.
During the conversation, it became apparent that I had talked in our previous meeting about intuition. I had forgotten this – but it is something I have recently become very interested in. In summary, it’s the idea that the world is far too “mental” and that many have lost touch with their intuitive guidance system – based around the heart. I’m also a strong believer in the idea that everything is connected.
And so it was, just by chance (as happens when browsing the internet) I came across this video below:
I don’t know too much about the organisation behind the video – but just love the overall theme, messages and visuals. It somehow helps us to remember things we have forgotten or lost – so we can get back into the life-force and remember who we are.
As we come to the end of the summer break, for most of us, school, university or work starts afresh. I say, for most because, like with all generalisations, there are always those who break the rule. An increasing number of friends seem to be moving into “retirement” or “semi-retirement” – breaking the pattern of a life-time by taking more time off. Two of my children are starting University – a break from the long years of study at school to the less structured, more fun time at Uni.
And the little word “break” got me thinking. It seems to have so many meanings. It runs to many definitions in the dictionary – both as a verb and as a noun. It can be:
destructive (as in – “break a glass”)
illegal (as in “breaking the speed limit”)
liberating (as in “break out of old patterns”)
exciting (as in “breaking news”)
disappointing (as in “break my heart”)
the point of profit (as in “break-even”)
time to eat (as in “breakfast”)
very confusing for someone not fluent in English (as in “break a leg”)
For such a little word, it has so many different subtle meanings and so many different ways to combine itself with other words to mean so many different things!
Yet, with all of this, I always see the start of September as the opportunity to break from the past and focus on the future. For some reason, even more so than with Christmas or Easter. Perhaps we are all subconsciously programmed by the school year – whether as students, former students or parents. Yet there are those who will always break the mould and find other beginnings and endings in their year and not agree with me.
Last Sunday, I took my friend Sam to visit my bees. He has been trying to keep bees for three years – but to no avail. The last swarm that I gave him on his birthday two years died off the first winter he had them.
And so it was, I was completely charmed that, on Tuesday morning, he rang me to say that a swarm had gathered on the window of his office – exactly above the desk he works at! We set about to catch them later that day – and yesterday we installed the swarm in one of his new hives not so many miles from here. I’m sure the bees will stay with him now.
This evening, I came across a beautiful piece by Tolstoy about the ultimate purpose of the honeybee – which I thought I would share with you.
It has been a magical and charmed week and the honeybees have truly touched my friend, Sam and me with this amazing encounter. Long may the honeybees swarm into people’s lives as they did for me so many years ago.
“As the sun and each atom of ether is a sphere complete in itself, and yet at the same time only a part of a whole too immense for man to comprehend, so each individual has within himself his own aims and yet has them to serve a general purpose incomprehensible to man.
A bee settling on a flower has stung a child. And the child is afraid of bees and declares that bees exist to sting people.
A poet admires the bee sucking from the chalice of a flower and says it exists to suck the fragrance of flowers.
A beekeeper, seeing the bee collect pollen from flowers and carry it to the hive, says that it exists to gather honey.
Another beekeeper who has studied the life of the hive more closely says that the bee gathers pollen dust to feed the young bees and rear a queen, and that it exists to perpetuate its race.
A botanist notices that the bee flying with the pollen of a male flower to a pistil fertilizes the latter, and sees in this the purpose of the bee’s existence.
Another, observing the migration of plants, notices that the bee helps in this work, and may say that in this lies the purpose of the bee.
But the ultimate purpose of the bee is not exhausted by the first, the second, or any of the processes the human mind can discern.
The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery of these purposes, the more obvious it becomes, that the ultimate purpose is beyond our comprehension.
All that is accessible to man is the relation of the life of the bee to other manifestations of life. And so it is with the purpose of historic characters and nations.”
Extracted rom Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace: Chapter IV
I had to introduce a workshop last week with a bunch of folk who were trying to take on the “big guys”. I opened the workshop with a story which, for me, gives great hope to the small guys who are toiling away to take on the big guys.
Some say the big guys have gotten the world into the mess that it is currently in. So here’s a story to cheer those up who are ploughing their furrow as a “small guy”!
There is an old Celtic legend, a story of two lumberjacks.
Both men were skilled woodsmen although the first, called Angus, was much bigger, welding a powerful axe. He was so strong that he didn’t have to be as accurate for he still produced due to his sheer size. He was known far and wide for his ability to produce great quantities of raw material. Many hired him just because he was bigger. After all, his customers reasoned, everyone knows that bigger is always better!
In spite of his size, the fame of the second woodsman’s (who was called Hamish) was spreading for his skill was in his accuracy. There was very little waste in his efforts so his customers ended up with a better product for their money. Soon the word spread that Hamish’s work was even better than his larger competitor, Angus.
Upon hearing this, Angus became concerned. He wondered, “How could this be? I am so much bigger that I MUST be better!” He proposed that the two compete with a full day of chopping trees to see who was more productive. The winner would be declared ”The Greatest Lumberjack in all the land.” Hamish agreed and the date for the bout was set.
The townsfolk began talking. They placed their bets. Angus was the favorite to win with a 20 to 1 advantage. After all, bigger is better! The evening before the bout, both men sharpened their blades. Hamish strategized to win the bout. He knew he would never win because of his size. He needed a competitive advantage. Each man went to bed confident that he would be declared the winner.
Morning broke with the entire town showing up to cheer on the lumberjacks. The competition started with a the judge’s shout, “GO!” Angus, strong and broad, leaped into action. He chopped vigorously and continuously, without stopping, knowing that every tree he felled brought him closer to his coveted title.
Hamish, wasting no time, jumped into action as well, attacking his trees with every intention of winning the distinguished title. But unlike his larger competitor, he stopped every forty five minutes to rest and sharpen his blade.
This worried the onlooking townspeople greatly. They murmured among themselves. Surely, he could never win if he didn’t work longer and harder than his competitor. His friends pleaded with him to increase his speed, to work harder – but to no avail. This pattern continued throughout the day when both men heard the judge yell “TIME!”, signaling the end of the match.
Angus stood, winded and exhausted, yet also proud by his pile of trees knowing he had given his best having chopped almost continuously since the start of the match. Surely, he was the winner!
Hamish also stood by his pile of trees – though, unlike his competitor, he was still fresh, ready to continue if necessary. He also stood confident in knowing that he had also given of his best and that his tactics would pay off.
When all the trees were counted, it was announced that Hamish had, indeed, felled more trees than Angus and he was granted title of “The Greatest Lumberjack in all the Land!”. He happily shook the judge’s hand and gripped his newly won axe made of the finest steel in the land. Angus (and most of the townspeople) stood in stunned silence at the announcement – for he was far greater reputation, was far stronger and had a much heavier axe!
But Hamish was not that surprised by the result. For he knew that, in order to win against his larger competitor, his instrument had to be continually sharpened. His axe was smaller and therefore each swing must be more accurate in order to produce the better product. By stopping the sharpen his instrument, he had proven, once and for all, that he was the better man for the job. He also knew that, with regular rests, he would be able to endure his technique far longer.
I took part of the afternoon off yesterday to sort out a friend’s beehive. He had started keeping bees earlier this year, having been given a new hive by his parents for his birthday. After two inspections he called for help for me to take them away. The bees had stung him so badly that he had dramatic side-effects. Last weekend, I took a new hive over and yesterday I went to put the bees into my hive. The bees were one of the most aggressive colonies I have ever opened – and it became clear that they were not the best colony for a beginner beekeeper to start with.
It got me thinking of a few visits that I have recently done to business incubators and business colonies around the country in the past few months.
The first was in London, near Kings Cross at the Centre for Creative Collaboration (C4CC). My good friend, Brian Condon, has just started a new phase of development by taking on a full-time role running the place. The C4CC is based near Kings Cross and funded by various parts of the University of London. The way that the centre attracts projects and develops ideas is outstanding. A particular success has been Pavegen – which creates paving slabs that generate electricity from footsteps. They started with the founder and a desk in C4CC two years ago and have now moved out to a local office employing about 30 people.
The second example was in Edinburgh, where I was shown around a new venture called “The Tech Cube” . The building used to be the home of the The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies until last year when the School moved to new purpose-built facility 7 miles to the south. The vision for the Tech Cube was impressive – though the building was still under refurbishment. What was interesting was the link between the Tech Cube and the University – with the idea of taking some of the young ideas that will be incubated on the top three floors of the Appleton Tower (part of the Informatics Department) about half a mile away and then to commercialise them further in the Cube. Again – a strong link between University and the commercial sector seems to be the trend.
I was also lucky enough to be shown around O2’s new Business Academy in London – part of a network of accelerators owned by Telefonica under the brand name “Wayra“. 19 start-ups in London (from a total of 171 worldwide) are each given about £40,000 as a loan by Telefonica to catapult them to the next level. They each spend 9 months in the accelerator in a cube on the edge of the building bounded by corner-less walls of black that can be written on by passers by.
There is an interesting map emerging – which is summarised on the TechBritain website:
All this got me thinking what the similarities were between my apiary and the successful custodianship of these new businesses accelerators / incubators around the country:
Projects and/or businesses are bounded physically (like a hive is within an apiary)
Each project has a leader. Some are more successful than others – depending on the leadership qualities of the boss (queen bee)
The organism depends on cross-fertilisation of ideas between the various colonies (a role performed by the drone in the bee world)
The workers of each project (hive) collect ideas (pollen and nectar) and enrich their organisation
Some incubators (like C4CC) have private rooms that projects can keep their Intellectual Property (honey stores) from the competition
Each building (apiary) needs a good leader (beekeeper) to ensure the right treatment is given to each project (hive) to ensure they flourish and survive
Each business (hive) has a different path, a different energy, a different future. Predicting which ones will win and which ones will fail can be difficult! Just as with bee hives.
Colonies of Artists are not a new thing (see previous post on the Cranbrook Colony. However, with all the mergers, acquisitions, outsourcing, offshoring and MBA-ification of our business fabric, I somehow think that the only way we can get the UK back on its feet is to get back to the level of the hive and re-learn the art of business within a colony, or business apiary.
This is backed-up by thinking from the Futurist, Thomas Frey, in his analysis of the future of work and how business colonies will become a growing force in the future of how work works.
This weekend I will move the hive from my friend’s garden to my out-apiary where I will have to decide what to do with it in the spring. Some colonies are just too angry for an amateur beekeeper to want to keep. Below is a rather quaint scene from the French Alps of an apiary that has probably not changed for a hundred years or more:
However, on the up-side, they are often one the most profitable hives for producing excess honey. After this appalling year of honey production, I might well encourage them to flourish next year. The again, it might be good to encourage them to swarm – so I lose the queen that produces such aggressive daughters. As in beekeeping, so as in Wayra’s motto: “The rules are not yet written!”
This week’s cease-fire in Gaza probably passed most people by – except for quick glimpses of rockets being fired back-and-forth and the commentary from safe television studios by those who try to collapse a whole history lesson into a few minutes of short, sharp sentences. I am sure we were all relieved that the war was halted by an equally abrupt ceasefire.
However, the news reminded me of a time when I was much smaller and of the 6 Day War of 1967 – and more particularly my father’s reaction to it. He had strong opinions about this part of the world having been posted to Palestine at the end of the Second World War. By luck, he was minutes away from the King David Hotel (1) when it blew up on 22 July 1946.
The bomb killed 91 and injured 46. The Irgun planted a bomb in the basement of the main building of the hotel, under the wing which housed the Mandate Secretariat and a few offices of the British Military headquarters. If my father had arrived a few minutes earlier, I would not have been born. Nor would my brother nor sister. A sobering thought (for my siblings and me, at least).
My father therefore had a very different perspective on the Arab-Israeli conflict – and would merely say “remember what happened to the Palestinians.” This did not have anything like the meaning for me as it did for him. And for my children, it is probably just another history lesson in a country that they have not yet visited somewhere in the Middle East. In reaching a bit deeper into the subject, I came across a quote (2) by David Ben-Gurion (the first Prime Minister of Israel):
“I don’t understand your optimism,” Ben-Gurion declared. “Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arableader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it’s true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been antisemitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance. So, it’s simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there. Otherwise the Arabs will wipe us out.”
What struck me by this quote was not so much that the Prime Minister of Israel was admitting to the fact that the Israelis had stolen “their” country from the Arabs, but more the idea that it takes one or two generations to accept; one or two generations to forgive; one or two generations to forget.
It reminded me of some research I did a few years ago on the famous Russian economist, Nikolai Kondratiev (3). Kondratiev came up with the theory of the long-wave economic cycle which takes about 50-60 years from peak to peak. Kontradiev’s views were so controversial in his country at the time that he was sent to the gulag and was executed in 1938 at the age of 46. It was Joseph Schumpeter who named the wave in Kondratiev’s name in 1939. I remember reading about long wave economic cycles about 20 years ago and wondered what might cause these types of patterns in history. I can’t remember exactly where I heard the theory at the time – but I remember hearing the idea that the 50-60 year cycle is natural because “it takes two generations to forget”. Given that a significant number of children are born to women between 25-30 (from(4) – see chart below), this is somehow quite an interesting idea.
If you take the theory and apply it to the cycle from the Wall Street Crash in 1929 (and the Great Depression of the 1930s) to the financial crisis of 2008 and our current post-crash turmoil, then 1929 to 2008 is about 80 years. Some of you might point out that the time between is not 50 or 60 years, so the theory does not hold. But perhaps this is due to the fact that we are now all living a bit longer? In any case, the underlying pattern of loosening financial controls within the international financial system seems clear – as is the pattern of forgetting the lessons learnt from the previous generation’s Grandparents. I’m not a qualified economist – but as an inquisitive observer, the theory somehow makes sense – even if it is not numerically accurate.
So we have wars, we have waves and we have history repeating itself and it got me thinking about the recent flooding that is currently taking place (again) across many parts of the UK. Over 5 million people in England and Wales live and work in properties that are at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea. (5) Yet there seems to be considerable political pressure on encouraging the building industry to “get building” so that we can kick-start the economy. In Kent, where I live, many of the new houses have been built on the flood plains around Ashford – and there is the famous story of the Vodfaone Headquarters building in Newbury being built on the old racecourse that was well-known for flooding.
And so it was that I came across a story (6) about the tsunami that struck Japan last year. Many people living by the sea lost their lives, but there was one village, apparently, in Aneyoshi that has a stone which reads:
“High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants.
Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis.
Do not build any homes below this point.”
Those who headed the warning (like the residents in Aneyoshi) were spared from the destruction of the recent tsunami. Other towns did not. Yuto Kimura, aged 12, from Aneyoshi said they studied about the markers in school, and when the tsunami came, his mother got him from school and the entire village climbed to higher ground.
And so it is. Maybe we are all cursed with the fact that it takes two generations to forget. But for the wise ones who read the markers that have been laid down from previous generations, it is worth teaching the next generation about the deeper lessons from history. It is worth encouraging them to take less time to accept, less time to forgive and more time to forget the important things in life.
Then again, we are all creatures of habit, so I expect the addage that “it takes two generations to forget” will last for many more generations to come!
This evening I attended a fascinating talk given by our local history society on a local colony of artists who lived in Cranbrook, Kent, England in the 19th Century. Their art can now fetch well over £100,000 a piece. Below is one of the typical paintings – that could number an estimated 1,500 – though only 300 have been catalogued by the local historian giving the talk.
What was interesting is that so little is known about the colony locally – and that many paintings were bought by industrial entrepreneurs from the Midlands and North of England. It is only because of the interest of a few local folk that some of the pieces have found their way back to the local museum and local collections.
The Naughty Boy by George Bernard O’Neill
The reason I was there was that local history society recently asked me to design a simple, low-cost website for them. The chairman, secretary and other committee members are now adding content to the site – and it was from a discussion with the archivist did it suddenly hit me how differently people think about putting information onto the web.
The archivist is an ex-librarian. For her, everything can be classified and should be put into order as part of a logical taxonomy. Already the categories on the site are developing into several layers. She reflected on the fact that, perhaps there were now too many layers for some categories. It reminded me of my early days of (IDMS) database programming (before relational databases), when you had to put data into classes and categories. I had a simple rule then that more than three layers was too many. It still somehow holds true today.
On describing this blog (where the categories are simply a relational tag that you clump ideas together with), she became nervous. The way that her librarian-mind worked was that each book, each chapter, each page, each idea had, somehow to be classified in a single tree. The idea that each idea, or article could be classified by several different classes – and that you leave it up to the search engine to work out how to get you there was a difficult one for her to feel good about.
It was a similar lack of familiarity or unease that I have, perhaps, with those who Tweet. Sure, I tweet a bit. Occasionally. Once every so often. When I am feeling I have a gap, or when I have a slot at the conference when I want to broadcast something interesting. But I am by no means a regular member of the Twitterati. Tweeting somehow gets in the way of the flow of life. You become an observer or a journalist rather than living in the moment. I respect those who tweet regularly – but, for me, it is too high a frequency to engage in all the time. I suppose others will leave an historically-interesting pheromone path of phrases and words for others to analyse in the future. Like writing a daily journal. But that life is not for me. I prefer blogging one a week (or once every six weeks when I am busy – as has been the case recently).
And so it is was with the Victorian artists in the Cranbrook colony. They left no diaries. No documentation of their progress. They lived and worked and played and painted in the moment – by all accounts to make a living first and then to enjoy life. Some were richer than others – but all of them exhibited at the Royal Academy year-after-year and were successful in their own ways. Yet now, 150 years on, we know very little about them.
At the end of the talk, someone reflected that the mid 19th century countryside existence in rural Kent perhaps harked-back to the pre-industrial, less smoky, less satanic mills existence of England that had been lost in the North to the industrial revolution – which is why so many of the paintings went North. Who knows. There are no tweets, no blogs, no journals or otherwise to confirm or deny such theories.
Just the paintings themselves – which hold a fascinating set of visual cascading stories, moral values and pure artistry that are contained in the outputs from this unique colony of artists that lived so close to where I now live. Art for Art sake, Money for Godsake. 10cc (now on a brilliant tour of the UK) said it all. It was the same then as it is now!
Funny about the word colony. It is what they called the far-flung corners of the British Empire. As well as being the collective noun for a load of bees! There you go! The bees don’t tweet either. They buzz. A bit less now we are going into winter. Makes you think!