Of course people like sprawl

I just finished reading an article in the Atlantic Monthly about El Paso’s struggles with urbanization. The article suggests that there’s less demand for new urbanism because – shock! – people actually like the suburban lifestyle.

Of course people like the suburban lifestyle! This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The problem with suburbanism and why we should promote urbanism isn’t because people actually like an urban lifestyle, it’s because there are hidden, long-term costs of suburbanism that are rarely accounted for. These include environmental costs, social and cultural costs, and basic costs of ongoing community service. Unlike many urban costs, these don’t come out of our pockets today, but come out in the long run.

This is tied to a larger American problem of mispriced goods. Capitalism is a wonderful system, but relies on a few fundamentals, including transparency, competitiveness, and accurate pricing. When goods are not priced correctly, we can’t act rationally. And suburbs are not priced accurately.

No wonder, then, that people love living in them! You get unbeatable convenience, room, and an easy lifestyle for much less than its worth. Unfortunately, our communities will pay the price in the end.

Bottoms-up vs Top-down sales models

I found this post on new enterprise versus old enterprise software sales interesting: http://brandonb.cc/is-your-b2b-startup-new-enterprise-or-old-enterprise

The basic gist is that the traditional top-down enterprise software sales model (“old enterprise”) – characterized by executive-level contacts and long sales-cycle – is being joined by a new model that starts from the bottom and goes up (“new enterprise”). The author goes on to describe some patterns he’s observed, concluding that it’s really driven by the customer.

I don’t have fully fleshed thoughts on this, but a few things spring to mind:

  • As SaaS becomes more prevalent, more types of software will be available in the “New Enterprise” model.
  • Siloed data continues to be a problem – this is really only fixed by a top-down approach. It can be alleviated, however, by more open software. Different topic, but I expect “openness of data” to be a corporate requirement in the future (i.e., don’t buy software that tries to lock up our data).
  • The most successful companies will be those that can master both, using a bottom-up approach to support an eventual top-down sale. Winning products need to work (and be compelling) on their own, and support the complexity that a full-enterprise sale requires. Right now, most companies seem to be good at one or the other.


Packers lose NFC championship because of stupid coaching

After the Packers loss to the Seattle Seahawks, tons of ink was spent analyzing what happened. I believe most of the analysis suffers from “availability bias”: our tendency to treat recent events (the things most “available” in memory) as the primary cause. We tend to look at the last major play or two and give them outsized credit – the Seahawks’ two-point conversion, or their successful onside kick, for example (and we blame the individual players involved).

The outcome of a game, of course, isn’t because of a single play or a single player. It’s the result the entire game – and in this case, it’s the result of game-long conservative coaching.

I wrote off the game after the first series, when Green Bay didn’t go for a TD on fourth and inches. Obviously that series worked out (recovering a fumble on the kick return), but it was representative of an overall conservative outlook. The final score wasn’t the result of poor play by the players – especially poor Brandon Bostick – but poor coaching. It’s tempting to identify a single play or two, but if your gameplan rests on a single play or two, it’s not a good game plan.
The dagger for Green Bay was self-inflicted and came early in the fourth quarter, when the Packers had two three-and-out series in a row. In both, they basically tried to run it up the middle for no gain or a loss of yards, and eventually kicked it. After the first, they got an interception and another chance. A lot of columnists are blaming the guy who intercepted the ball for going down instead of running.
It’s a key play, but there is green in front of Burnett for yards and yards and if he had continued to return it, he might have at least put the Packers in field goal position. All he had to do was get around a couple of offensive linemen and get a block on Russell Wilson and the game may have been over.
Sure, he could have gained a few extra yards (or more). But the real blame lies with the Green Bay offense (and coaching), which took over and decided to do the same thing for three more downs, finally punting it away. The safety got an interception; that’s outstanding. It’s not up to him to put points on the board; it’s up to the offense to capitalize on his great play and put the game away. Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers and an elite offense; instead, they just handed it to Starks (not even Lacy) for lost yardage each play. If we have a problem with the defense – who just intercepted the ball! – not playing aggressively enough, we should have a much bigger problem with the Green Bay offense not playing aggressively after having time to think about it.
One might argue that their defense had played very well all day, so it makes sense to leave it up to them. But the truth is that Packers were very lucky – Seattle has one of the lowest turnover ratios in the league, and to suddenly turn it over a zillion times is uncharacteristic. Part of that can be attributed to a Packers defense that had them dialed, but there’s no way that turnover ratio is sustainable. Russell Wilson isn’t some third string yahoo. He’s one of the league’s best quarterbacks, leading one of the league’s best offenses. There’s going to be a regression to the mean.
Anyway, that’s what it comes down to for me: a conservative game plan and conservative play calling. You don’t win championships like that. The gameplan has to set up players for success, not count on them to make miraculous plays.
Can you imagine what Bill Belichick would have done with this? Not only would he have gone for it on fourth and inches, but he would have made every effort to put a dagger in Seattle’s heart, running up the score. You can call it classless, but it wins games. When your opponents are reeling and on their heals, you finish them off. You don’t lollygag around and wait for them to gather their wits. Overall, Seattle is a better team than Green Bay – Green Bay needed to get lucky and be smart. They got lucky but weren’t smart.

Rules of modern marketing

A few rules that should guide any modern B2B marketing department:

1. Plan to compete with feature parity

There are lots of examples of companies with well-insulated technological advantages. But most of the time, a feature or two is only unique for four to six months.

In a world of feature parity, what are you really competing on? Price or something less tangible? For the most successful companies, it’s the latter.

2. Purchase decisions are rationalized decisions

We like to think that B2B decisions are rational purchases. But really they’re emotional purchases made by individuals, and later rationalized.

You can still win if you don’t emotionally connect, but you have to be outstanding because your competitors are being given the benefit of the doubt.

3. Business is consumerized

It used to be that people used different things at work and at home. No longer. Now they use Facebook at work and Microsoft Excel at home, and their iPhone wherever they are. B2B companies need to learn lessons from B2C companies and make products that offer great customer experiences, and use marketing that appeals to business buyers as individuals.

4. Tell a story

It’s no surprise: people connect to stories. What’s your story? Why were you founded and what big problems are you solving?

5. Looks aren’t everything, but they are a leading indicator

Your mom loves you regardless of what you wear, but the rest of us judge. If you look sloppy or amateur, what does that indicate about your product? Being put together, with every detail in place doesn’t make you detail oriented, but it is an indicator.

Same thing with your company. If your marketing material is sloppy, your work is probably sloppy. If it’s not, you had better be prepared to jump through hoops to prove it.

6. Revenge of the nerds (metrics matter)

All this emotional stuff doesn’t mean that metrics don’t matter. They matter more than ever. Now you can track everything, so do!

7. The customers are in control

Old marketing was about driving prospects through your sales process. Modern marketing is about accompanying prospects as they drive themselves through their own process.

It’s not about convincing someone that your product is the right one for them, it’s about being the right product for them, and letting them control the decision.


Updated Go Bag list

I’ve updated my Go-Bag slightly. Most of things remain the same, as does the goal: prepare for what is likely. This is the key thing about disaster preparedness, of course: many people prepare for insane highly unlikely events.

Unfortunately, this means that they’ve not only put their resources into things that’ll never be used, it usually means that they are ill-prepared for events that actually might happen.

Alright, here’s the new list:

Bag Nalgene for water Some sort of sterification for water Spork Change of clothes Running shoes Rain gear Flashlight Some food (bars + beef jerky) Duck tape Multitool warming packs Extra wool socks Lighter Warm jacket Warm hat (wool beanie) Paper, pen, perm marker Toiletries Hand sanitizer Whistle Earplugs Plate

Clever extras: car inverter Lantern Extra batts (but not necessary) Television or radio USB Battery pack First aid kit USB surge protector thing Emergency sleeping bag Can opener Wet wipes Paracord Wool Blanket