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I was trained as a scientist and enjoy doing social experiments even today. So I was curious to know how traffic to this blog would be affected if I stop writing for one week. The result is unbelievable:

  • Traffic to the site dropped 72%
  • Search referrers dropped 51%
  • In-page clicks dropped 70%

This, of course, is not a scientific experiment.  The statistics I provided above are merely correlated with one writing-free week, not caused by it.  Perhaps only a scientist would appreciate this post, but I thought I would share it with you anyway.

I wrote about the application of the Hedgehog Concept a while back, an idea I borrowed from Jim Collin’s Good to Great. It has become clear to me now that the post was a bit too general to be helpful, so I am going to write more to clarify the points. Briefly, the Hedgehog Concept refers to intersection of the following three circles:

  • What are you deeply passionate about?
  • What can you be best at in the world?
  • What drives your economic engine?

This post is going to concentrate on point #1 – discovering your passion.

You know the phrase, “it hit me while I was…”? Ideas don’t float in the air and hit you on your head while you are idling. Similarly, you will not discover your passion by just sitting around. So the first thing to do to discover your passion is to do something…anything! Read a book, do crossword puzzles, talk to people, pick up a new hobby, take a class, learn a new language. At this point, you are at the discovery stage, so any activities that you don’t already do count. And don’t limit yourself — sky is the limit. And while you are doing these activities, ask yourself, “Am I enjoying it?” Then observe if the activities make you happy and want to do more.

After you’ve stumbled upon the activities that seem enjoyable, you need to narrow it down a bit more. My favorite way to narrow the scope of anything I encounter is to ask oneself the following sets of questions:

  • Does it matter with whom I do the activities?
  • How about when and where I do them?
  • Will the “why” and “how” change anything I like about the activities?

Once you’ve answered those questions, you are ready for the next steps: Find people who share your passions — join a group, go to themed parties and gatherings, and if you are adventurous, find them on listings such as Craigslist (just be sure to practice common sense and stay safe). Learn more from these people, and through your conversations, you will discover even more what fuels your passions.

Nothing worth learning comes easy. This exercise, too, is very time consuming. If it makes you feel any better, it took me three years to find my passion. And things didn’t stop there. I am continuously sharpening the focus of my passion even today. Yes, it is hard work, but it’s hard work that pays handsome dividend with the dividend coming in the form of deep joy and lifelong happiness.

So how would you know when you’ve finally found your passion? For one thing, you will have the deepest craving to do it again and again, and you will want to learn more about it. You will find yourself thinking and talking about it with other people, and most importantly, you will find a deep sense of gratification, joy, and felicity.

Ever since Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp purchased Dow Jones, speculations ran rampant that Wall Street Journal online would become free. Alas, Murdock came out and dispelled that rumor a few months back. WSJ will remain behind the pay wall — you want access? Pay up!

There are actually good reasons for not making the site freely accessible. The most obvious reason is the diversified revenue stream. Subscription is easy money since most people, once they signed up, don’t bothered to cancel their subscription. But the more important reason, in my opinion, is that the pay wall ensures users on the WSJ online site are qualified audience. With this high quality audience (mostly bankers, business men and women, high net worth individuals, etc), they can charge advertisers a high premium (CPM in online marketing speak) for the privilege to speak to them. That is big money!

Today, I read an article that stated WSJ actually can be had for free, if only you know how. The article claimed that none of it is illegal, which is a good thing. Briefly, the article said that many of what’s behind the pay wall can actually be accessed without subscription if you click to them from news search engines and link aggregators such as Google News and Digg. Whatever else you cannot read through this method you can try to access by using a Firefox plug-in that spoofs the referral traffic. Both methods take very little effort to implement.

The question that immediately came to mind is this: If the intention is to keep the WSJ content behind the pay wall, why make it so easy to break through it? I think I know the answer. The subscription wall is just that — a barrier. With so much easily accessible free content, if you require just a bit more work to get to your content, most people would not bother to try to overcome that barrier. Usually that is a bad thing because people would just go to your competitors’ sites. In WSJ’s case, it’s a good one because the barrier ensures that only those who truly want to access the content will get to them. WSJ keep their qualified audience and thus their high CPM (which is their bread and butter anyway).

Now that’s one company who knows its audience and how to monetize the audience while expanding its reach. Brilliant!

I have written about ineffective TV commercials here and here. Today I found one that is just the opposite. It is very effective because it fits several criteria mentioned in Made to Stick by the brothers Heath. The book, by the way, is highly educational, entertaining and practical. I strongly recommend it to anybody who is interested in marketing (viral or otherwise) and/or psychology/sociology.

In the book, the authors discussed six key principles that helps ideas spread: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. (The initial letters spell out “SUCCESs” for easy remembering). Briefly, here are the abridged version of the principles:

  • Simplicity refers to an idea that is core and compact
  • Unexpectedness refers to breaking of pattern to attract attention
  • Concreteness refers to creating concrete images to convey your message
  • Credibility refers to using credentials to support your idea
  • Emotions refers to making people feel something with your idea
  • Stories refers to tying your idea to a story

What made the commercial I have embedded below so memorable is that it incorporated many of these principles. In particular, I think it is simple, unexpected, concrete and emotional. Watch it and you’ll know what I mean.

Although I am a marketer now, I was not trained in marketing. In fact, I’ve only taken one marketing class in my entire life (although I am an avid reader of many marketing journals and books). Despite my lack of training, I like to think I am a fairly good marketer. Others are welcome to disagree, but I feel my success has lots to do with the fact that I was not indoctrinated with the traditional teaching of what marketing is and how marketing is defined. Yes, there are the four P’s and five C’s, but marketing is first and forecast about people!

What do I mean by that? First, it matters not whether you are in a B-to-C business or a B-to-B business. The decisions to purchase your products and/or services are always made by people. There may be processes in place to get purchase approvals, but the decision to spend the money is always made by people. Second, technology and business processes don’t need what you sell, people do! Whether what you sell fulfills a particular kind of needs or wants, these needs and wants stem from and satisfy the desire of human beings, not machines or business processes. So if both the decision to acquire and the void the purchase would fulfill are by the people and for the people, then it follows that marketing must about the people.

Unfortunately, not everybody thinks so. Some people like to think that marketing is all about the creative ad copies while others think it’s how you communicate your message to others (thus fueling the wild fascination marketers have with the entire social network and social media phenomena). In fact, those are actually only components of marketing. The way I see it, the marketing cycle starts with the question “what do people want/need?” and ends with “how can people want more of it?” In other words, marketing starts and ends with your customers. Satisfy their wants/needs, and you will be well on your way to successful marketing.

What do you think? Please leave your comments below.

March 2008
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