Nest Gets Engineering and Marketing Right

Nest-thermostat

Nest is a thermostat. A thermostat is not usually worth talking about. Nest though is worth talking about and many have in the past.

Engineering or Marketing

There are products that are engineered well but the messaging falls flat. Some products get the marketing right but engineering fails to measure up. But there are times when engineering and the messaging surrounding it come together in perfect harmony. In such rare moments, the engineer and creative person can be content at what they have accomplished.

Nest’s latest advertisement does justice to the engineering behind it. Watch it first.

Reminds me of another product messaging.

Thinking Time

Instead of listing down how both examples resonate with me, am going to try something different.

First. Which other unsexy and green utility like Nest has better marketing?

Second. How would you introduce an iconic device like the Apple iPhone that might change how people communicate?

Fire away in the comments or drop me a note..details in the contact page. I shall post my views in comments mid next week.

Seth Godin On Market’s Taste

On the market’s taste Seth Godin says, “the mass market is a fool..If you wait for the market to tell you that you’re great, you’ll merely end up wasting time.”

I agree with that view and wish to add to it. Leave alone the market, you would find such shortsightedness even within your own firm. Perhaps your stakeholders, your peers or others whose buy-in would be essential to move forward on the vision.

Being clued in is a function of how aware the audience is of the prevailing market realities, the accompanying trends and how the customer preference dynamics could evolve as a result of these interactions.

And being clued in has nothing to do with past experience. In fact extensive experience can, and often does, cloud judgment.

Being clued in requires an open mind, one that is willing to put up every assumption aside in the consideration of possibilities. It requires a keen intelligence and robust imagination to make the rational mental leaps required to walk along the possible pathways of the future.

In their own way, to use the phrase of Gretzky,  a visionary skates to where the puck would be. It requires a perfect understanding of puck-physics, people’s motivations, their possible next moves and where the window of opportunity would materialize within the interplay of these factors.

So You Want To Be a Consultant?

[Note, this is not a recommendation to moonlight, if you are already employed full-time. Always check with your company representatives if you wish to do extra commercial work on the side. As always this is my personal opinion. A rough version of this post was posted by me on Bangalore_Barcamp group on YahooGroups.]

These are hard economic times. The first instinct for many would be to huddle down and let the rude winds of economic depression pass. But the first instinct is not always right. It would be wiser to take these calamitous times head on.

Start thinking a little about what skills you could use to make a living. This is applicable even if you are employed full-time, one never knows how the situation might change in times such as these.

In this post I specifically focus on being a consultant. I define a consultant as

“An expert in a specific functional area, who can engage with customers in a time-boxed manner to deliver business value in exchange for some compensation”

As compared to a full-time employee, a consultant is always hired for a brief period of time. The payment is mostly in terms of a day rate and tied to a specific deliverable getting out as a result.

Just to set expectations consulting is harder than being an entrepreneur who sells a specific product or service. To convince someone, at least in the initial stages when without a good portfolio, about the quality of the skills you have is a challenge.

That said, its always possible to break into this circle with the right set of skills, perseverance and relationships.

And these are the steps that have to be taken, in no particular order, to prepare and enter into the world of consulting.

Skills

You might be comfortable at many tasks. But focus on what you are really good at. Which of your many skills do you propose to highlight and gain customers. Is this skill in demand? Will customers pay for it and how much?

Competition

Who are the competitors in this particular area? Are there large and small players? How have they been doing? What challenges do they face today? And how do you intend to handle them?

Portfolio

What can you show to prove your skills are not your own opinions of yourself?

What credentials can you bring to the table? Can ex-clients, colleagues vouch for you? Is your portfolio available online?

Networking

Your first and best break can come from people who already know and trust you to deliver.

Are you on social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc? Do you have recommendations from them displayed prominently, or at least viewable on demand? Are you actively reaching out to people online and offline?

Marketing

See the above point on networking. Do all those. Have a blog. Record your thoughts on it.

Let the world see what transpires in your head without them having to ask what you are up to.

Use your online presence as a means to draw attention and market yourself. Actively participate in relevant user groups online and offline. Reach out and ask people how you may help them in any way.

Differentiation

How will your contribution and ideas be different from the many hundreds competing for the same set of customers? How will you distinguish yourself in the marketplace in every aspect of running your consulting practice?

Seek to stand out in a positive way from the clutter.

Positioning

Don’t claim to have ideas to boil the ocean.

Start small and slowly expand your domain of expertise.

Slowly but surely you can build a set of people who trust you.

Legal

Get your groundwork in terms of legal entities, tax implications etc sorted.

Summary

Of course all this is just an outline, I will have more specific details to share in the coming days.

Consulting is a very satisfying and lucrative way of using your expert skills to make a living.

And it all starts by telling someone, “Hi, I am <your name here>. I do <your skill>. How may I help you?”

All the best.

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A Quote – On Brands

Your brand is the sum of its interactions.
– By David Armano, taken from post by Marianne Richmond.

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PC kicks Apple’s rear

The ‘I am a PC’ campaign from Microsoft. It is cool to be a wisecrack but the real world has work to be done.

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Is this the far-seeing eye of Shiva?!

Shiva, it is said, has a third eye, one which could penetrate the soul of existence and perceive its singular essence. This was the all-perceiving eye of the Chief Ascetic. One which could see all triple projections of time, the ‘trikala dhrishti’ – the eternal now, the receeding past and the impending future. To gain some measure of insight into the workings of Time would make a mortal even as one of the Gods.

But technology, that great democratizing power, knows no Yoga, nor penance, nor asceticism. It lays no claim on eternity, unlike religion, but is forever the skeptic. Abandoning one half-truth in preference to a fresher half-truth. But it atleast upgrades itself unlike religion!

Science in its most candid moments touches a little of our eternity. When that happens, the method of reaching out ceases to be relevant. It is the touch that counts.

The WorldWideTelescope is one such expression of who we all are. It is a brief glimpse of the eternity to which we shall return, at least as dust. There is something about the TED presentation here. Could be the invention, could be the AWESOMENESS of it, could be the uncorrupted intent of the iventor or the speaker..could be some other alchemy that escapes our understanding.

But I loved it, every second of what I saw.

The interviews on the site seek to guess its utility once released. But I think this is a big mistake. Things of such beauty should not need to justify their existence.

I can perfectly understand Scoble’s reaction on seeing this.

I dont remember seeing a software application that made me confront and remember what I am as a human being.

No untruth was proved false. No hidden connection was revealed. No forgotten secret laid bare. This was an epiphany, of who we all are, masquerading as science and software.

Android – Of the mobile/telecom providers, by open source developers, for Google!

Gerardo Dada, at msdn blogs, makes the classic mistake here. His contention is that without an economic model, there can be no investment into building the Android platform. Without investment, there is no world class talent to build it and hence such efforts are firmly set to be born still.

Now am sure Gerardo has his logic, being a marketing person he is very consistent in stating his reservations on the subject. All successful businesses have a consistent economic model – captial costs are factored, future demand is projected, competitive constraints accounted for and the price of service computed. All very nice and dandy.

But Google does not think like a business. Their moves are akin to a world champion chess player, who probably thinks many 10s(??) of steps ahead of the opponent. Many factors have contributed to their position in the industry, not the least of all is to take the moral high ground in coining the maxim ‘Do no evil’. But note that all high grounds are only in relation to a low ground (Microsoft, proprietary software, large evil corporations with suited agents etc), or at least a perceived low ground. The subtlety of their strategm remains, though initially in it for the love of building something unique perhaps.

So how does Google monetize Android

  • Get more people/devices plug into Google. Its an open secret that the PC market is not moving as fast. Of course there is massive potential in the BRIC economies but these would take time to open up in sufficiently large numbers. An Google that is overtly dependent on PCs only limits its possibilities. Hence the 411, small device focussed apps(say the Blackberry friendly GTalk etc) etc. So its obvious they had to move to a point where they could be with the consumer, always. Right when they would be needed, ubiquitous presence. This directly drives ad revenue.
  • May be it was a coincidence, but the iPhone must have forced their hand. I state this based on how raw the Android vision has been, which in itself is highly unusual for Google. Given the muscle flexing of these tiny devices, the usual contraints for rich user experiences that Google relies on become practical, without having to rely on a hundred variety of coffee beans. Here Google throws a little money towards platform development, effectively subsidising all involved parties, which means losing some money but what is gained is traction in the marketplace. Microsoft understands this, in how it supports the developer community, and its similar here. Make the platform effectively free and open to the handset manufacturers and they would bend over backwards. The commitment is the payback here.
  • Android is just one facet of Google’s quest to control and mediate how we consume information. It would be a mistake to consider it a single strategy that is consistent in itself, with a profitable economic model. This is where Gerardo loses it I guess. As a commentor on the original post obliquely pointed out, the money is not in the OS.  Google might even lose money on Android. And this is exactly Microsoft’s position on the XBox! Lose money on the hardware but make money on the software and service (Games, XBox Live etc)
  • From being consumers to the telecom and mobile device providers, Google’s appetite has grown enough to dream of having their own network. They have the reputation, clout and the gumption to envision an entire ecosystem. Or in other words ‘Of the mobile/telecom providers, by the open source community, for Google’. Here the payback is in owning the environment and all that it makes possible. ROI as traditionally calculated might not be relevant here.

This is just my initial thoughts on this. All comments/feedback/flames welcome!

What successful blogs do to organizations

Found this blog post by GeraldK, on what successful blogs do to organizations, the role they play in impacting how an entity functions etc., via a Microsoft partner marketing blog.

But had to disagree with the marketing blog’s assertion that some people don’t understand blogging. Perhaps one of the statements, ‘Microsoft was saved because of blogging’, was a tad excessive but otherwise I found the post quite good. Nothing new is revealed but comparing Microsoft’s record in opening up as contrasted with the usual competitors makes for an interesting read.

Also, here is a quote that impressed me much..

“..it takes certain organizational cultural values. It’s not about process, or rules. In fact, it requires acceptance of uncertainty and ambiguity, tolerance of risk, openness to criticism, and a degree of confidence. These are not things that can be proceduralized, but instead come from how the organization is, uh, organized, and simply the underlying values.”

Can’t really argue with that!

And by the way, that entirely explains why most large or established organizations find it difficult to deal with the whole blogging/opening up phenomenon. Unless the entire, or at least a significant portion, speaks with the same voice there is bound to be chaos. I have tried, and continue trying, to instill some sort of team spirit within the product I manage and know how difficult a challenge it is. And to have the same spirit and values permeate an entire organization, no wonder most don’t even attempt it!