The Tale of Amar, Akbar, Anthony and What They All Need to Succeed

Three Friends

Meet three friends – Amar, Akbar & Anthony.

Amar is an entrepreneur. He thinks that he is unemployable and wants to always remain his own boss. He is self-driven, creative, knows what he wants and has the ability to inspire people. He is not afraid of taking risks and following his dreams. He dreams big and wants to make it big some-day. He believes in his own ability and pursues his dreams. He co-founded a startup and is busy creating the next billion dollar product.

Akbar is also like Amar, but a bit more conservative. He wants to go after his dream but at the same time doesn’t want to bet everything on it. He went through the whole bit – did well in school, became an engineer and ended up in a good, well paying corporate job. However, he is not satisfied with this job and the salary. He wants to do something more. He also wants to have an impact. He secretly wants to be like Amar but doesn’t want to leave the security of his well-paying job.

Anthony is different. He did the full bit – did well in school, college and ended up in a good paying corporate job. He is happy with his job. He is more focused on his private hobbies – wants to spend time with family, wants to travel and see the world, read, play some sport, etc. He has no aspiration of making creating an impact in the world. He knows his strengths and weaknesses and aspires to become the head of a unit in his company or some other company that pays him better.

I am sure that each one of us could relate to one of these three characters, not entirely fictional.

In each case, there are certain fundamental skills that each one of them need to work on and improve at if they want to achieve their goals.

Key Skill – Ability to Influence

One such skill is the ability to convince and influence people – physically (in-person) and virtually (in-absence).

There is a lot of resources that are available for us to learn how to persuade and influence people when we are with them in-person. Some really good resources are books by Robert Cialdini (Influence & Pre-suasion), presentation skills, communication skills training and many more. This is also an area where the feedback for performance (yes, it really is a performance) is immediate (verbal or non-verbal), all of us know where we stand when it comes to our skills and if we are not good, we decide to do something about it.

The area where I think we miss out on is the ability to persuade people when we are not around.

So, in order for Amar to succeed in building up his product to success, he will need to be able to create copy that can convince or persuade his customers to open up their wallets. This copy will include the packaging of the product, product brochure, product website, campaign emails that he will send to his prospective customers and a lot more that he will need to do.

In order for Akbar to succeed in becoming a successful intrapreneur, he would need the ability to convince his organisation of his ideas. He will have to write emails that are persuasive, he will have to write up project plans and new product description and what they will do, that are able to persuade his senior executives to fund his ideas.

In order for Anthony to succeed in becoming a business unit head, he would need the ability to convince his boss to give him the promotion that he wants, he would need the ability to write persuasive emails that will inspire his team to rally around the idea/project that he is driving so that it becomes a success.

Conclusion

So, in short, irrespective of whether we relate to Amar, Akbar or Anthony, one key skill that we all need to learn and improve upon is the ability to write persuasive text or COPY.

One way to learn how to write copy, which is a bit crude, but works wonderfully, is to copy by hand, copies or emails or news paper advertisements that have worked really well.  I have tried this and I can say for sure that this definitely helps but is an approach that not many people have used before.

And Ray Edwards is a successful copywriting coach, who uses his own unique process to come up with a copy. You can use the same method to come up with an email that can convince for you, or create a sales pitch that can convince your customer or write a project plan that can convince senior management to open up their budgets and fund your idea.

Ray has just launched a free online course that will teach how to write persuasive copy. I have already registered for this free course. I recommend that you  register for the same as well. This is one skill that every Amar, Akbar and Anthony needs to build upon to achieve their dreams.

There are courses on copy writing that are available on Skillshare, or the one offered by Ray or on any other platforms.

One of the most important skills to succeed in a Gig Economy - Writing Good Copy Click To Tweet

It is imperative that we all learn to write good COPY. This could be one skill that can potentially have a significant impact on our careers.

You can check our some great examples of good email copy here and some advertisement copies below.

10 Principles of Timeless Design

Good Design is by Mukesh Gupta

I was reading about design and what design looks and feels like when I stumbled onto the 10 commandments of timeless designs that the legendary designer Dieter Rams had created to critically look at his own designs, early in his career.

When I look at these commandments, I would call them principles of design, I felt that just like the designs that these commandments help become timeless, these commandments themselves are timeless.

So, I wanted to not just share a link to an article or a poster, but actually list down these commandments on my blog so that I can refer back to them on my blog whenever I need them. Also, I have realised that capturing this in the form of a blog allows a much wider set of audience to see and learn from them rather than a FaceBook post or a tweet or a pinterest share.

So, here are the 10 commandments that Dieter had laid down, not necessarily in the same order (words under <paranthesis> are my own additions) and I have tried to couple them in the form/function/meaning frames to make it easy to remember.

Form:

Good design is aesthetic.

The aesthetic quality of a product adds to the usefulness of the product as the products that we use every day affect our person and our well-being. So, as with every other thing in life, we all want products and objects that are aesthetically pleasing.

If we are given a product that had all the other aspects of good design but lacked aesthetics, and another with the same set of features but is aesthetically pleasing, most of us will always pick the one that is aesthetically pleasing over the other.

There is something inherently human making us gravitate towards things that are beautiful.

Good design is unobtrusive.

Good design is when the design doesn’t get in the way of what the product is meant to be used for. Good design is when the user of the product doesn’t even recognise the design elements being presented to him as part of the product.

Good design is environmentally friendly.

Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. As designers, it is important that we understand that every single element of design that we include in a given product that the product could have done without, we are increasing the usage of our resources. It also helps the products from visual pollution and make the design stand out.

As a matter of fact, design could potentially be the single most important function that can have immense impact on the future state of usage of natural resources. We as designers, need to understand this responsibility and act (design) responsibly.

Good design is as little design as possible.

This follows the “Less is More” maxim that a lot of artists and designers have used for generations now. The very simplicity of the iPod or the iPhone (with just one button on the phone) is what makes them so innovative and easy to use.

The more choices that the users of the product need to make, the more are the chances that they will make a mistake at one of these choices. So, limiting the number of interactions that a user can have with the product at any given stage is probably the best way to minimise confusion and mistakes by the user.

Function:

Good design makes a product understandable.

Design when used well can play the part of the user manual. When I bring home a washing machine which has 20 programs and can be customised in myriad of ways, I need someone to come home, install the machine and explain to me all the features.

In reality, the engineer comes home, installs the machine, explains the most frequently used features and runs away as he is measured on how many installations he does on a given day. This means that I would hardly use any other feature apart from the most commonly used features, which defeats the entire purpose of putting those features in the product in the first place.

Imagine if the washing machine came with just 5 keys. Each clearly indicating what it did (not as a function of the product, but for me as the user) – for cotton clothes, for woollens, for really dirty clothes, for baby clothes and rinse only. These are just some examples, could be different based on the actual needs of the users. I then don’t need anyone to come home to explain to me what the product does and how to use it.

So, if  someone has to explain how to use a product, then it’s design isn’t a timeless design.

Good design is long-lasting.

Design that doesn’t follow fads and fashions, sticks to the basics and is as minimal as possible, is timeless as it is as pleasing and useful today as it will be a few years from now. This is also the reason why black and white shirts never go out of fashion and are fail proof when it comes to fashion. So, it is with products. Products that use what is in fashion, can appeal in the near short-term but in the long-term, it looks and feels weird and out-of-place, once the fashion changes.

There is another layer of meaning here. There has been a tendency of product designers to build in product obsolescence within the product itself, so that the user is forced to buy again. However, this is in direct contradiction of the environment friendly maxim laid out earlier. In fact, Dieter Rams, has openly come out and has asked designers to stop doing that.

Good design is innovative.

Any design that leverages the new developments and breaks the barrier in terms of what is possible, while at the same time follows all the other commandments is a good design. Innovative design, when used by and for itself, is not good design.

Meaning:

Good design is honest.

Good design doesn’t promise the user what the product doesn’t do. It stays true to the function of the product and just that, making it simple, minimalistic and timeless.

Good design is thorough down to the last detail.

No part of the design is left to chance or appears by default. The more care taken to ensure that every single element in the design is there by design and intention and serves a purpose for the product or the user of the product. This shows respect towards the user and their time and attention, two of their most important commodities, that once spent, can never be recovered again.

Good Design Makes a Product <More> Useful. 

Any design that doesn’t make the product being designed more useful, only comes in the way of the product itself. So, it’s better to only include elements that add to the usefulness of the product and leave everything else out.

These principles are as timeless as the products that are built keeping them in mind.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I would like to also bring to the attention of the readers, that there are enough studies that have found that creativity flourishes when operated under a set of constraints.

These commandments or principles function as the set of constraints and allow us to tap our most creative self to come up with a design that is timeless and helps the users & creators of the product equally.

If you are a designer, I would recommend that you take a print of the commandments and hang it someplace that you can see all the time, while working on your next product design. That will help you remember the constraints and enable you to come up with a product with timeless design.

A small request:

If you liked what you read/heard, I would request you to head over to my patreon page and become a patron for the blog/podcast. You could do so by contributing anywhere from a single dollar to about 1000 USD depending upon how much you like the blog/show.

Think of it like the following – I will bring thought leaders to your door step and in return all I am asking is for you to spend just enough to get a cup of coffee for the expert that is in your home. 

I would like to keep this podcast ad-free and need your support regarding the same. You can also find some very interesting artists whom you can also contribute for.

I myself support James Victore as a patron. If you are an artist yourself, consider becoming a patron for James as well or even set-up your own Patreon Page here.

PBTO52: Good Marketing Opens Minds and Good Sales Closes Deals – Krishnan Chatterjee

Who is on the show: 

In this episode, we host Krishnan Chatterjee. He is a musician and a marketer. He heads marketing for SAP Indian sub-continent. He stumbled his way through IIM-A into the corporate jungle. Became the Head of Marketing for a large IT Company-a journey in which he used his voice in keynote speeches and such like. Came to his senses in the late noughties with the realization that your identity lies in what you create – and not in position, possession or power. Discovered songs don’t need much writing, and promptly adopted white collar rock to blow off creative steam.

Why is he on the show: 

He has great clarity in thought, thinks in frameworks and I have found to be to-the-point no-nonsense marketer. He also has great insights about the role of the marketing function and how it needs to evolve within a business.

What do we talk about: 

In this free-wheeling conversation, we talk about the following:

  • Difference between marketing a services company and a product company
  • How has marketing evolved over the times and stays relevant in an ever changing world
  • Importance of remark-ability & advocacy in todays world
  • Importance of delivering on the promise of the brand
  • Compelling event marketing (Amul)
  • Z-CMO – CMO in the zero moment
  • Should Marketing be part of the product development cycle?
  • Marketing’s Market making capability
  • Competency Model
    • Ability to know your Audience like the back of your hand
    • Know what competency is our strengths
    • Excellence – Name and describle why you are worldclass
    • Affirmative Action – Can you generate urgency and momentum to the business
    • Strategist – Are you able to conceptualize original ideas
    • Leader – Ability to bring ideas to fruition
  • Top challenges of a CMO and how to tackle them

Video’s referred by Krishnan:

How Can I Connect with him: 

You can connect with Krishnan at www.contraband.in and on LinkedIn .

A small request:

If you liked what you read/heard, I would request you to head over to my patreon page and become a patron for the blog/podcast. You could do so by contributing anywhere from a single dollar to about 1000 USD depending upon how much you like the blog/show.

Think of it like the following – I will bring thought leaders to your door step and in return all I am asking is for you to spend just enough to get a cup of coffee for the expert that is in your home. 

I would like to keep this podcast ad-free and need your support regarding the same. You can also find some very interesting artists whom you can also contribute for.

I myself support James Victore as a patron. If you are an artist yourself, consider becoming a patron for James as well or even set-up your own Patreon Page here.

The Art of Storytelling For Business

It is well known that all of us make most of our decisions based on our emotions rather than pure logic or intellect or rationality. So, if we are to influence people and their decisions, we need to learn about moving them emotionally enough to get them to make a decision in our favour.

The best way for us to do so is by telling good stories, stories that they can related to and move with. I saw this video by Ameen Haque, who is the CEO of Storywallahs, which he delivered at the Google complex and was moved enough to share this here on my  blog. I have listened to him and his team tell stories at various public events in Bangalore with my 12 year old son and I can’t recommend them enough.

What Ameen does in this video is to break down the art of story telling and break it down into easy to understand and implement chunks of activities. If you are in the business of influencing anyone, I strongly urge you to take the 55 mins and watch this talk. It is not enough to watch the talk but try to do what he asks of you in the talk. Telling stories is a skill that we can develop with practice and as he says, we need to build a repertoire of stories that we can bring out whenever we need them to exert influence.

Some other resources that I have specifically found useful to learn storytelling for business are as below.

People & Blog:

  1. Bernadette Jiwa:
  2. Seth Godin
  3. Malcolm Gladwell
  4. Ameen Haque

Online Courses:

  1. Leadership Communication for Maximum Impact: Storytelling on Coursera
  2. Storytelling for Change on AcumenPlus
  3. Storytelling for Leaders: How to Craft Stories That Matter on Skillshare
  4. Storytelling for Business on Udemy
  5. Storytelling for Influence: on IDEO University
  6. Business Storytelling with C.C. Chapman on Lynda
  7. The Story strategy by Bernadette Jiwa

Books:

  1. Meaningful by Bernadette Jiwa
  2. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

Podcasts:

  1. The Business of Story
  2. The Revisionist History

I do hope that you will at least check out a few of these resources and find some time to learn the art of story telling.

Its Always The Little Things that Matter

If you take care of the little things, the bigger things take care of themselves.. Click To Tweet

I realised this yet again, when I was invited to the Hexa Experience Centre recently in Bangalore. 

This was an event run by Tata Motors to promote their new SUV Tata Hexa. I was invited as a member of the blogging community – IndiBlogger. I also happen to be on the verge of looking for a new car for myself. So, on a hot Christmas day, I found myself driving to the Hexa experience centre.

First things first. I did love the car and the off-road experience of the car. I would have really loved to experience the off-road version by driving myself, but i understand their concerns and only chauffeuring customers on the off-road track. The car was extremely stable, sturdy and drivable across all kinds of terrain. I think Tata Motors could potentially have a hit on their hands, if they do everything else well.

It is well known that having a great product doesn’t guarantee market success. Its everything else that you do with the product in the market that determines the success of the product. It is elements like pricing, positioning, customer acquisition, customer service, managing the expectations of the right kind of customers, etc.

I would like to share my opinion based on my personal experience at the Hexa Experience Centre and also share my views on what could they have done instead. Let me share my experience in terms of what was good and what could have been better.

Little Things Done Well:

  1. Taking Care of the Kids: The experience centre was not just about experiencing the car. They had a play area where children could play, so that the parents could explore the car in peace. This is such a simple thing and goes unnoticed when done well, but could be a big hassle if not done well at all. Children could at times get cranky and demand attention – exact same thing that the brand wants on their product. So, by creating a space where the kids could play by themselves, Tata Motors created the option for the parents to experience the car with or without their children – but with full attention.
  2. Taking Care of the elderly: They also had a lot of chairs around, where parents of their customers could simple sit down and listen to some live music, eat or have some beverage. This again gives the opportunity for the customers to give full attention to the product at hand and not worry about anything else.
  3. Taking Care of the un-interested Spouse: It is not very uncommon to find that only one of the spouse is most interested in the car, its specifications and finer details of the car. The other spouse is only interested in the comfort that the car provides them and some features which are basic necessities. By the virtue of being a part of the large Tata group, they were able to bring in interesting products from their retail businesses to the experience centre – we had Chroma with interesting mix of electronic gadgets, Tanishq with the Mia brand of jewellery, Tata Global beverages with their options of beverages. This created opportunities for the group companies to create at least brand awareness and at most get some sales. This also provided the spouse not interested in the technical specs of the car to go around and spend sometime (window) shopping while the spouse interested in the technical specs get deep into it, with complete attention.
  4. Design of the Off-road experience: The way the track was laid for the off-road experience was very thoughtful and made sure that the customers experienced the biggest strengths of Hexa – stability, sturdiness & drivability in all kinds of off-road conditions.

What could have been better:

  1. Registration: I had already registered via IndiBlogger and was hoping to have a smooth way in and out. However, I was informed that I had to register on the spot. Again. This was the first little thing that Tata Motors could have been done differently. Since I was already registered and had a code from IndiBlogger, they could have skipped the registration for me again. This is something that i had expected as a customer and so by not doing this, they already fell short of my expectation. Once the registration was completed, I was asked to first take a token for the off-road & on-road driving experience. At a different spot. When I went there, I was told that I would have to wait for about 45 mins to get my chance to experience the off-road drive and about same time to experience the on-road experience. Now, anyone who visited the centre was there to experience off-road and/or on-road drive of the car. So, it would have been very simple to avoid queuing up at two different places. Even better would have been to get people to pick the time they would like to experience each of the experiences (off-road & on-road) online or while doing the off-line registrations. By doing this you are setting up the right expectations, avoid building up queues at different places and also allow the customers to experience everything else that they had put together.
  2. Digital Experience: The digital experience of the car was lame. It was just point and click animations, which explained the different features of the car. I did not have to be there in person to check that digital experience. What would have been better would be to create a virtual reality app, that allowed me to simulate the feeling of sitting inside the car and even play a racing game or a driving experience of the car. When you are selling a premier product, the experience needs to be premier as well.
  3. Parting Ways: Once I experienced the car, there was no one from Tata Motors who connected with me to ask me about what i thought of the experience and if I am interested in a follow-up conversation. Even if I am not planning to buy the car, could I give a feedback (in the form of a video or a tweet) about the car. Here was a prospective customer and all that the Tata Motors team wanted to do was to give you the on-road and off-road experience of the car and pack you off. Not a good idea.

Aside from building a great product, Tata Motors also needs to understand it is equally, if not more, important to design a great experience for their customers under which they experience the product. The metaphor that comes to mind here is that, the entire thing needs to be thought of as a staged theatre production with the customer playing the part of the Hero or the protagonist.

I am wishing that Hexa does really well in the market and for Tata Motors. And thanks to the IndiBlogger team to have invited me to the Hexa Experience Centre.