Personalize or Die

Attention is a scarce resource. Everyday, brands are fighting a decreasing portion of the attention pie, with significantly increasing costs. Although this one-upmanship is great for ad networks, it’s destructive for your bottom line.

Repeating your message over and over — hoping that if you do it for long enough, somebody will eventually pay attention — is useless and expensive.

Smart brands realize that collecting, analyzing and making use of customer data is great for building brand equity and loyalty. Breadcrumbs of valuable customer interaction at every touch point allows these brands to provide more relevant and timely product and services.

For example, Amazon has consistently improved their product recommendations over the past decade. Netflix granted $1M in 2009 to a team that were able to improve the accuracy of their recommendations by 10.06%. Target is able to identify pregnant women in their third trimester.

One of the most exciting updates is from Facebook: They recently made it much easier for themselves to analyze the data of their 800M+ users by introducing verbs in status updates with Timeline feature. Research suggests that when customers go through major life events, their habits become flexible. And naturally, Facebook is positioning itself to sell this window of opportunity at a premium to its advertisers.

Arguably, one of the main reasons why smaller companies do not invest time and money into providing a fine-tuned level of personalization is the complexity of the task, and the perceived (lack of) value it will bring. However, it’s never too early to start.

Tools like KISSMetrics for customer analysis, Custora for CLV calculation have made it affordable and easier for you start understanding your customers. Tech startups such as Platfora promise a brighter future for marketers. For a technical introduction to your home-baked solution, Programming Collective Intelligence is a good start to understand recommendation algorithms.

Personalized marketing is the future, and it’s here. Start looking for patterns. Figure out what makes your customers tick. Use your findings to tweak and improve your products and services. Repeat.

More vs. better work

On my first day as an intern back in 2003, I asked my new boss about my working hours. He handed me a pair of keys and told me that I was “free to come and go whenever I wanted”, as long as I did my job. It was very refreshing — conventional wisdom at the time was receiving hell for being 15 minutes late to work.

More than a decade later, I am surprised to see that not much has changed: many companies still try to impose rigid working hours (a concept which has survived pretty much unchanged since the industrial revolution), hoping to create a competitive advantage by doing more work.

For a manager whose primary job is managing people, the task of evaluating the efficiency of an employee seems to get easier when it’s based on the number of hours spent in front of a computer. This is a wonderful delusion of control and progress.

At the other end of the spectrum are startups. Taking pride in 14 hour workdays and sleep deprivation is an excuse for lack of focus and prioritization.

Modern businesses cannot rely on quantity of work to be competitive anymore: they need creative thinking and innovative solutions to problems, which can only come from better work.

So how do you enable better work? By prioritizing quality instead of quantity. By hiring smart & passionate people, creating an environment where they can work without interruption and friction, giving them the tools to collaborate efficiently and getting out of their way.