Saturday, August 4, 2018

Peter Thiel asked me how I can achieve my ten year plan in six months. Really. Well, not really.

He didn’t personally ask me. It’s not like we met for lunch at Como Esta Taqueria in mid-town Palo Alto. I read the question in his book.

But, in December, while I was on vacation, I thought about that question.


I have a written goal somewhere…I cannot remember where…but I did write this down once…that I would write five books in the next ten years. Geez, I hope I did not write that goal ten years ago. Let’s just say I’m writing it now.

Five books in ten years is an aggressive goal. One book every two years. That alone is relentless daily writing and editing and pitching publishers.

If I am going to write five books in ten years, I will be 57 years old.

That is too long.

I probably won’t become a good writer until I publish at least five books. Maybe more. It takes time and practice and production to get good. At anything. I don’t want to wait that long to get good.

Let’s get back to Peter’s question for me:
How can you achieve your ten year plan in six months?
I am not sure I can write five books in six months, but I could write two. Maybe three.

I can self-publish them. I can write shorter books. I can write Kindle only books.

I can do that.

I already have 20,000 words for one book on agile marketing. I can publish that by March or April. Then start on the next one. (I wrote this part in January 2018 right after starting to write the first book in this goal)

I can do that.

The next book is on customer education. Then software adoption. I think I can get those done by the end of 2018. It’s going to be close.

The fourth book…I am not sure. Maybe a book on implementing Workplace by Facebook. That might impress Dan O’Leary. I don’t know exactly what that book would be, but I can work that out.

So…how can I achieve my ten year plan in six months?

I can accelerate my book writing and publishing and get two books published in the first six months. And publish five books within two years. That is 5X acceleration. That ain’t bad.

Author’s note: I published that Agile Marketing book on April 30, 2018 by the way. It’s on Amazon and people are buying it. I have also been asked to speak at an agile marketing meetup and two Atlassian user groups. That’s a decent-sized whoop.

Better yet, I am now 25,000 words into that book on customer education. That is book two. I am writing it with Jesse Miller and Rob Castaneda and Dilyana Hadjeva.

That is how I can achieve my ten year plan in six “ish” months.

2018 is the year I turn pro.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

This isn't the product education you're customers are looking for

I received this email from a company offering free training. It is for a product I think is excellent and from a company I think is as cool and forward-looking and disruptive as it gets. So, I mean this as no criticism whatsoever.

Product Education Bill Cushard


I hear this a lot when I speak with software companies about their customer education plans. "Our customers won't spend time in training." "Training needs to be short and sweet." "It's all about microlearning." And they cite the obvious dictum that attention spans are the lowest they've ever been.

OK. Fine. Fair enough.

But when I see a training class of 30 minutes, I know already I am not going to learn anything. For starters, you cannot learn much in 30 minutes, especially when the instructors starts 5 minutes late waiting for the late comers to "Join the Zoom." Then the trainer is going to take 7 minutes to introduce the topic and do an "About the Company" pitch.

I also know they have crammed way too many topics into the 30 minutes to give any meaningful treatment to them.

Finally, if our software is as disruptive as we promise it is (or even close), does anyone really think we should trust that customers can learn to change how they work, by using our product, in less than 30 minutes? It's inconceivable. Yet I see it every day. We should have more respect for our customers than this. We should help them do their jobs better. Which we obviously cannot do in 18 minutes. What are your thoughts on this issue?

p.s. - Don't get me started on free training. The definition of free is zero value. p.s.s. - By the way, if our attention spans are so short, how can we binge watch Netflix for 24 straight hours without taking a bathroom break. For me, it would be sitting through Lohengrin at La Scala.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Be like Intercom: Design the right customer education strategy

If you are a SaaS business with a product-led growth strategy, a product education team is non-negotiable, says Ashley Minogue, director of growth at OpenView. She goes on to say, “Product education, it turns out, is an often overlooked but critical part of a company’s success with all stages of the customer lifecycle: onboarding, activation, retention, and expansion.” But don’t just take Minogue’s word for it, though you should. Also listen to Ruairi Galavan, senior manager of product education at Intercom in this excellent piece by Minogue on the OpenView blog.

You should read this article because Galavan talks about five parts of a good education strategy that I think you should adopt, do a “save-as” on, and design your own. I won’t cover all five steps, you should read the article for that. I will, however, mention two points that stuck me as most important.

Your takeaways might be different.

These are mine.

Strategy evolves

It is such a good lesson that a strategy is a working document, and it should change over time. That’s what Galavan is doing. The education team at intercom was originally organized by competency…writers over here, video editing over there, UX designers behind you there, etc. After the team took a step back, they identified an opportunity to organize by customer journey stage. According to Galavan, half of the team is now focused on conversation and activation and the other half is focused on retention and expansion. I love this. It provides focus. Plus, it is quite possible the content needs for learning are different for people in an early stage with your product than they are for customers in a later stage.

I think you would agree.

Lesson: Strategy is not fixed. It is a tool you can use to better adapt to your environment.
If you are a SaaS business with a product-led growth strategy, a product education team is non-negotiable, says Ashley Minogue, director of growth at OpenView

Start with metrics

The second lesson I learned is to start with the metrics. We customer education professionals gravitate towards solving problems with training content first. This is understandable because if all else fails, if we can help a customers learn our product features, a customer will likely be better off and more satisfied. But this approach does not mean we delivered the right training or that the right results where achieved. And just because a customer says they need to learn something, doesn’t mean that is what they should learn. Galavan’s team had a realization that they should focus on specific metrics related to product activation and not just on helping customers learn certain important features. Galavan even says, “If we could have done one thing differently, I would have thought above activation metrics a lot sooner.”
Starting with specific metrics that matter most to your company, radically clarifies what you focus on. Who knew?
This is a good reminder for me because too often I “know” that if I can just help customers learn this feature or that feature, that they will be better off. The question I can overlook is, “If a customer uses this feature better (or more often) will the main, most important outcome be achieved?”

Maybe not.

That is why starting off a strategy design process determining the best metrics to focus on is just about the most important thing you can do.

Lesson: Starting with specific metrics that matter most to your company, radically clarifies what you focus on.

That's what I learned. What did you learn?

Those are two takeaways for me. What are yours? After you read the article, comment below what you learned. What will you try tomorrow or do differently? I will think about organizing education teams by customer journey steps.

I think that is genius. 

Workshop: How to design your customer education strategy

Speaking of customer education strategy, I am hosting a customer education strategy design workshop in Palo Alto on Thursday, August 2. In it you will actually start designing your strategy. You will walk away with a first draft, at least. We will spend the day together working through a process of discovering customer journey steps where education could make an impact, define the metrics you will target, goals for improving those metrics, and then develop a roadmap for how you will achieve those goals. This is a working session, so bring a pen. I’ll supply the workbook and some food.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Why Marketing Exists

Marketing exists to generate demand for something. Demand generation is making a market of people who are ready to buy. Ready to buy means a sales opportunity is created. In B2B, this literally means that an account executive creates an opportunity in the CRM.

If sales creates an opportunity, then marketing generated demand.

Demand generation is not optimizing landing pages and calls-to-action in a marketing automation tool.

Demand generation is making a market of people who are ready to buy and marketing exists to make that market.

Marketing does not exist to produce leads. A lead is a person who is not ready to buy.

Here's the thing.

The only way this works is if you let the sales team decided when YOU generated demand. Sales creates the opportunity. Not you. Sales. Sales decides whether you achieve marketing's mission to generate demand.

Are you willing to stick your neck out like that?

I am.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Bernard Baruch On Bitcoin

Bernard Baruch once said, "Lyft drivers told you what to buy. The DoorDash deliverer could give you a summary of the day's bitcoin price range as she handed you your poke bowl. An old out of work java programmer who regularly patrolled the Philz Coffee in front of my office now gave me tips, and I suppose, spent the money I and others gave him on bitcoin. My virtual assistant had a Coinbase account and followed the price of bitcoin on his mobile app. His paper profits were quickly blown away in the gale of 1929.”

Monday, March 5, 2018

3 Things I Learned at Way Too Cool 2018

I ran Way Too Cool 2018 this past weekend. I had a great race. I was not my fastest race. But it might have been my best race. I learned a lot. There are three things I learned.

#1 Things Are Rarely As Bad As They Seem

It rained a lot in the 3 days before the race. The Auburn area received several inches of rain. And the forecast was for it to rain all day during the race. It was even pouring down rain in Folsom when I went to pick up my bib at Fleet Feet. All signs pointed to it being a tough, cold, wet, muddy day.

As is turns out. it hardly rained at all during the race. The sun even came out a few times. It was cold, but not really after I started running. Yes, my feet were cold most of the day from the mud and puddles, and creek crossings, but not numbing cold. Not really. 

In other words, the race conditions were way better than expected. On Friday afternoon, the apparent conditions were screaming, "Don't run. Stay in bed. Try again next year."

Thank goodness I did not listen to my demons. I told them, the night before the race, "Back off. I'm running."

Lesson: Go anyway. Even when you don't want to. 

#2: The Right Equipment Matters

I am no gear geek. I don't get caught up in getting all the cool gear. I have a simple Timex watch. Champion running shirts from Target. Last year, I ran Way Too Cool holding a Crystal Geyser Half Liter Water bottle. That's it. 


The right equipment does matter.

For instance. 

My shoes. I ran this year's race in the Altra King MTs. Despite me switching almost entirely away from Altras because the shoes seem to be getting narrower and narrower, to the point now where trying on a pair of Altra's makes me feel like I am wear a pair of Ferragamos (Read: narrow, Italian leather shoes), I kept my King MTs.


The lugs.

The 6mm lugs.

While other runners were tentative with their footing, slipping in the mud, especially on the downhills, I flew past people with my grippy Kings. These shoes gripped the deep, sloppy, slipperly mud like Bridgestone Blizzak snow tires on the Mount Rose Highway in a January snow storm. 

I passed people on muddy down hills like they were standing still, and I was Max King.

Altra King MT Way Too Cool 2018

#3 This Heart Rate Training Things Definitely Works

I have been training at the Maffetone Heart Rate since 2015, but only recently altered my diet to be more high fat. I felt strong throughout this race. In fact, according to Athlinks, I moved my 118 spots in the race after mile 8. 

Think about that.

Out of 601 racers, I moved up 118. 

You might argue I started out too slow. 

I argue, I started out just right, and just didn't slow down as much as others. Either way, I was able to run well at the end on the flats and downhills. I even hiked up Goat Hill without feeling like my lungs would explode. I did not stop and rest. I just hiked up (slowly, of course) steadily. Evenly. And when I got to the top, I kept walking to the aid station, grabbed two quarter PBJs, refilled one bottle, and started running. 

I'm now more hooked than ever on that heart rate training thing. Who needs speed work? I am getting faster naturally. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Why I am not more effective. Yet.

For the past few months, I have been thinking consistently and deliberately about how I can be more effective in my work. Though most of that time is usually spent thinking about how I can I be more productive, I do not think productive is the right word. 

Productive implies doing more work, or even just being busier. When you look up the definition of productive, the stress is on producing more. You might see the word “results" in the definition of productive, but the bias is towards producing more.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe people who produce more, are generally more successful. You cannot sit on your ass, do the minimal amount of work, and expect to be successful. I think saying to oneself, “I work smarter not harder” is an excuse for taking long lunches and going home early, while everyone else stays to help one more customer, make one more sales call, or fix one more bug.

I want to be more effective, not more productive


I don’t want to just worker harder. Just do more. Just work longer hours. Just spin my wheels. 

I want to be more effective.

Like you. I have plenty to do. More work than I can get done. The choices I have for work to do is enormous. 

Oh yeah.

I have choices, baby. 

More choices of thing to work on than I do choices of spaghetti sauce. 

The question, of course is, “What to choose?"

But what is effective?

This has been on of those times when I needed to consult Peter Drucker. As I have done more than a few times in my career, I turn to Drucker for advice, in the form of his book, The Effective Executive

I turn to Chapter 3: What Can I Contribute?

And it hits me like a ton of bricks in the opening paragraph:
“The effective executive focuses on contribution. He looks up from his work and outward towards goals. He asks: “What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve?” 
“His stress is on responsibility.”

1950s pronouns aside, this always wakes me up.

At least for a moment.  

The intoxicating allure of busy

I find it easy, intoxicating, to get bogged down on everything I could do in a day. And in the quest to do more, I do a lot more tasks that make me feel busy and productive and helpful, but do not answer the question, “What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve?”

After all, I have to prepare for that meeting at 11. I have to say “Yes” to helping create that campaign.” I have to help Cynthia with her project because she has a deadline tomorrow, and her customer needs it done.”

I am not saying these urgent tasks should be ignored (well, maybe I am), but I have been working hard to spend most of my time on the fewest tasks that can make the largest contribution to the most important results of my company (I should apply this idea to my family life, as well. Another blog perhaps?).

Every day, I struggle with the push and pull of being effective and being busy. 

I lose. 

A lot. 

But I am winning more. 

As Drucker advises me on page 57: “Commitment to contribution is commitment to responsible effectiveness.” 

A daily effort to commit. A daily practice.

My commitment is growing. Even though, for some reason, I do not make such a definitive statement as “I will ONLY work on tasks that make a contribution to results” or “No more busy work for me” or “I will never eat fried foods again. Ever.” 

Maybe you have that level of discipline. I do not. But I am consciously thinking about being more effective. Every day.

There is a deeper truth to all this, but I do not trust you enough to share that yet.