Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Making a Career Change

September 16th, 2013 2 comments

2 years ago I was an attorney at a big law firm practicing antitrust law. Now, I am not. I work in business development at Foursquare and I love it (also, download the app or visit us on the web at – we’re building awesome products that’ll make you want to go out and explore the world around you!). I get a lot of emails, from lawyers and non-lawyers, asking me how I made that career transition. So I thought I’d put some of my thoughts down because I give some version of this chat 3 or 4 times a month. Hopefully it’s helpful.

Ok, so you don’t want the job you currently have. The question is, what job do you want? If you have a specific idea – if you know that you really want to work in business development at a SaaS company, in digital marketing for the NBA, or operations for a consumer tech company – that’s great and you’re well on your way to figuring things out. But, you might not have that laser focus yet. So figure out what you’re passionate about (cliche alert). For me, that meant spending a lot of time thinking about what I think about. I knew that I hated thinking about legal work – what I did find myself reading about or following on Twitter or chatting about with friends was news about tech companies. So I started there. After a little more digging I realized that business development at a tech company that touched on social networking was something that I really wanted to do.

Ok, so you’ve chosen a specific field but you have no idea what people actually do in that field. I made a huge mistake before going to law school – I didn’t talk to any big firm corporate lawyers about their lives. I had worked with suburban lawyers at small firms in Detroit and for the public defender in DC, but had zero idea what it meant to work at a big firm like Skadden Arps. I didn’t do any diligence on the matter and, surprise, didn’t have a great idea what I was in for until I had already committed to going to law school. This, to say the least, was dumb. So, don’t make the same mistake. Once you’ve narrowed down the field you want to work in start reaching out to people in that field. You want to find out what they do on a regular basis – you need to know exactly what their work day is like. At every interview, an interviewee asks “What’s your day-to-day like?” And it’s a bullshit question if you ask it like that – you have to be much more specific. Find out what they enjoy about their job. What they hate about their job. What they would change about the job. If they enjoy thinking about their work when they’re not at work. Don’t talk about things in the abstract – try to get down to the details.

Ok, so how do you do find these people to talk to? Make a list of companies that you’d like to work for and spend some time figuring out what job roles in those companies interest you and might be a good fit for your skills and background. Then hit your own network – do you know anyone who works at those companies? If so, great. Shoot them an email asking them to talk about the company. Ask them if they can introduce you to anyone that works in the specific role that you might want to pursue. Don’t know anyone at those companies? It’s not the end of the world. Google the job title and company name and you’ll see some names start to pop up. Look those people up on Twitter and LinkedIn. Start reading what they share on Twitter, pay attention to who they’re interacting with and responding to, follow who they follow (think like a stalker, but don’t actually become a stalker). Find people who blog about these types of jobs – there undoubtedly will be some. Be a sponge and start absorbing the vocabulary and cadences of the things that they’re focusing on.

That passive research itself might be enough for you to rule out this job as something you want to pursue. But if you still find yourself interested in the roles, you need to take it a step further and reach out to these folks to start building your network.

Ok, I hated the thought of networking. You need to get that bias out of your mind right now. Take it out of your brain and light it on fire. Networking is just talking to people. That’s it. It’s talking to them about their jobs and their interests and why you are interested in the same things. That should be easy once you figure out which form of networking works best for you. I, for example, absolutely hatd attending meetups and big gatherings and going up and introducing myself to people. I’m very awkward in those moments. I stumble through my name. I run out of things to say very quickly. I become very self conscious about what I choose to talk about. And when you’re trying to impress someone, when you’re trying to get them to help you, the pressure is even greater and it can become even more problematic. Luckily, I forced myself to get better at these things, but I still have to force myself to feel normal in those situations, which is not ideal. Maybe you don’t have these same issues, and if you don’t, then  find meetups and industry events and get yourself to those.

But if you’re like me, it might be easier to launch your first networking assault from behind a keyboard. You’ve already taken the first steps – identifying your targets and learning more about them (wait, this is really starting to sound more like a post about stalking people). Now, you need to level up. Start communicating with them. If they have a blog, start commenting on the blog on a regular basis. If they’re on Twitter, start replying to some of the things that they’re saying. Tweet them links that they might be interested in. Start writing your own thoughts about this industry and share it with the world. If you don’t have experience in the field you’re looking into (which, you probably don’t because you’re switching careers) you need to build some social proof of your interest and curiosity. So, you’re killing two birds with one stone here. You’re starting to “meet” people and you’re also building your brand (oh my god, I can’t believe I just wrote that).

Alright, you’ve really done a great job at laying the ground work here. Now you need to make a big ask – to meet with the people that you’ve started to interact with online. The nice thing is that by this point, they might recognize your name. So feel confident about sending them an email – definitely reference some of the communications that you’ve had:

“Hey Bob, I’ve read a ton of your posts about the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem and actually commented on a few of them. I think . I’m making a little bit of a career transition and am super interested in working in this space – I’m obviously very curious about it. Any chance we could meet up for coffee and chat?”

Weird, right? But here’s the thing, people like talking about things that they’re interested in. The absolute worst outcomes here are that the person doesn’t write you back or says no. That is not the end of the world. There are many many many many other people that you can talk to. Also, here’s the thing about them not writing back. They a) might not have seen your email or b) might have seen it but just not have had time to reply. My advice? Keep writing until you get a yes or a no. Don’t be a creep or obnoxious about it, but absolutely do not shut yourself down just because you haven’t gotten a response. Space your salvos out. Be gentle about the reminders – “Hey, I know you’re super busy and that I’m asking for some of your time here, but I just wanted to resend and put this at the top of your inbox.” A/B test your emails, too. Figure out the best way to present yourself to people – it takes some practice. Figure out the best way to make an ask – try some that are aggressive (“Give me a job, I’m a great fit and I’m awesome!”) and some that are not (“I’m just looking for advice and really respect what you’ve written about the field”).

One great piece of advice I got about sending these cold emails is to take a look at what you’re giving vs. what you’re asking (thanks Eric and Christina!). What you’re giving is basically how you can help the person you’re emailing. This can be a helpful link you’ve included in the email. An idea about their company or a problem that they’re facing. A skill that you have that could actually help them out. Be proactive and ask if you can take on a project for them – get it done on nights and weekends. Or, be even more proactive, and hand them something they can use. What you’re asking is obvious. You’re asking for a job. Or for a cup of coffee. Or for a lunch (No, wait. Do not ask for a meal). Or you’re telling them why meeting them would help you. Actually highlight your asks in red and your gives in blue. The blue has to outweigh the red.

Send these emails out. Send lots of them. Don’t be bashful. Don’t think about success rates. Just sending the email out is a success – it really is. Or, think about success rates and realize that what you might think is a low conversion rate, is actually not that bad and that every conversion is a real opportunity. Plus, think about this from the recipient’s perspective. If they get an email from a total stranger – but that email is thoughtful, concise, and actually provides some value to them – they are not going to knock you for that. They might not get back to you right away, but they won’t look down on you for it. I sent lots of these emails. The ones early on were laughably bad. But some of them got responses. And they got better.

So, at some point you’ll get a response and you’ll meet with people. I don’t have a lot of advice here other than to be genuine. If you’ve done the things above, you should have a lot to talk about. You won’t come away from these meetings or coffees with a job (you will day dream about coming away from these meetings with a job, but the truth is that you probably won’t. The day dreams are fun though – so keep having them).

So, that’s it. You’ll probably need to repeat this process many times. Don’t be disheartened by that. You’ll meet a ton of interesting people and learn a ton of interesting things. You’ll get better at the process each and every time.

I think this process banks on three things: 1) People who like their jobs love talking about their jobs. 2) People are inherently willing to be helpful if you approach them the right way. 3) Do the work to approach people the right way.


This is a tough mental and emotional process. Going from being an attorney to working in BD at a tech company (which was my ultimate goal) took me 16 months. 16 months of self doubt, of wondering whether or not I was making the right decision, of wondering if I would ever get there. It was 16 months of selling myself and a lot of people didn’t want to buy. But don’t sweat that stuff, take things day by day. Talk openly and honestly about what you’re trying to do – use friends and family as an emotional support here. There were definitely times where I was depressed throughout this process – but I rebounded from that by getting small wins and by talking things out. It took a couple of steps to get me here and I was fortunate to have jobs while I was looking for a job that I wanted to turn into a career. It took 106 separate Gmail threads (and those are just the ones that are clearly labeled). It took dozens and dozens of blog posts. It took building relationships and being lucky (in the end, I got connected with the folks at Foursquare because my friend Will felt comfortable passing my name along).

If I thought about the process in the aggregate – about how long it would take – it would bother me. So I focused on getting one thing done every day. Write one blog post. Email one person. Read 5 interesting articles. I looked at all of those things as an accomplishment to keep things in perspective. If you ever get down you can email me, and I’ll send you some of my worst cold emails to make you feel better. Or I’ll actually try to be helpful.


So, that’s it. This is longer and more rambling than I expected it to be. But that’s sort of how this process is. You have some false starts and dead ends. You get close on some things and realize you don’t want others. You find that some people will be unhelpful but other incredibly generous people will put their credibility on the line because they believe in you. I really do believe that if you put in the work, you can get there. And shoot me a note if there’s anyway I can help.

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The Empty Calorie Theory

February 13th, 2012 No comments

The Empty Calorie Theory: Mistaking growth for a signal of the underlying health of a system.

I think three recent/relevant experiences highlight the theory:

The Economic Crisis. Rather than focusing on the fundamentals of a healthy economy (job creation, low debt leverage) analysts turned to superficial factors (house values, high stock value, credit expansion) as evidence that our economy was performing well. It’s like purchasing a house and assuming everything is ok because it has a fresh coat of paint and the lawn is neatly mowed. Failure to look at the underlying health of the economy lead to collapse because most superficial indicators can be ginned up (see, Enron and Worldcom for micro examples). The extension of credit and boom in purchases were empty calories powering our economy, but they were built on a fiction. Eventually, a correction occurred.

Law Firms. The billable hour is viewed as the micro-indicator of how well an associate is working. It’s a benchmark, but it should not be the be-all-and-end-all. Is an associate billing 2600 hours great for the firm and associate? That depends on what the hours consist of (well, 2600 hours of billable time can never be healthy) and the time frame we are considering. If the hours are all document review, then, the associate probably hasn’t learned much. If they’re writing briefs and taking depositions, then they’re on the right path. Focusing just on the hours is a terrible indicator of the value, worth, and professional development of an associate. Hours are the empty calories fed into law firms billing system – they’ll sustain a firm (and individual career in the short run) but once a client gets wise and demands flat billing (or an associate is asked to do real work), a correction occurs.

Nutrition. The most literal example. You can stuff your face with Twinkies and soda all day, feel full, and be sustained. In the short-run, you’re fine. But in the long-run, these empty calories ravage your body. Correction has to occur or something drastic happens.

Many examples exist where looking at a deeper level of data has uncovered far more critical insights than the top level information.[1]

We’re hitting a curious inflection point where the availability of data provides opportunities for precise measurement and planning solutions for problems in a more detailed manner. That’s undeniably a great thing. If done right.

This is especially important for social media marketing as one of its touted advantages is the ability to measure quantitative impact. The variables we use to measure that impact become critical. Focusing on empty calories just because the data is available is a huge mistake.

Is the number Facebook fans and Twitter followers a good measure of health? Well, run a massive promotion and earn 2 million followers. Then refuse to follow up and engage with that audience and those 2 million followers show up on your “balance sheet” but they mean nothing to you (or, rather, you mean nothing to them) moving forward.

The fans and follower counts are empty calories. They make you feel good in the short run, but mean little over a period of time.

Engagement is a better long-term proxy for social media health (as are conversations on non-owned channels) – but those numbers are less flashy and tougher to understand. Thus, the fascination with fan counts.

Focus long-term. Focus on fundamentals. Big numbers are sexy, but make sure they actually mean something.

[[1]] Sports is a wonderful example. Point/run differential tells you more about the strength of a team than wins. On base percentage tells you more about a batter’s value to a team than traditional metrics like batting average.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
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Social Media and Small Business

September 28th, 2011 No comments

Kal Gullapalli is the CEO and Founder of SmallBizeo, a company that focuses on catering to the needs of small business buyers. You might have seen him on Fox News recently:

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Given Kal’s expertise with small business, I thought it would be worthwhile to ask him a few questions about how social media has impacted small business owners and franchisees. With social media’s ability to provide everyone with an outlet for their opinions, I think the implications for small business marketing and customer management is especially important. Here’s our conversation:

What are the main benefits that small businesses can gain from using social media?

Social media is tremendously important for small business. Why? 1. Brand Management. Social media allows small businesses to control their brand online. With so many review engines out there that house negative comments, social media allows business owners to directly speak to their customer. 2. Networking. Because everyone is online, social media allows business owners to network to an enormous audience. Undoubtedly, networking can lead to higher sales through business partnerships. 3. Competitive Research. Because your competition is online, you must be also. Social media helps decrease the inefficiency of small business by allowing people to understand better what their competition is doing. For example, if I am the owner of a sub shop in Pittsburgh and I see another sub shop running a big promotion, social media will tell me that.

How can small businesses best utilize social media?

The best way for small business to utilize social media is to engage their customers. This is easier said than done. Communicate directly with them. If they had a bad experience, say sorry. If they had a good experience, say thank you. Reward them for referring customers. Turn them into your marketing agents. Millions of free marketing agents all across the world. Sounds interesting to me!

Do franchises have rules governing social media behavior?

The answer to this is case by case. As a franchisee, you must read your franchise agreement to best understand your specific guidelines. Generally, older franchise agreements prohibit the use of social media by franchisees. And while newer agreements omit even discussing it, franchisees need approval for any marketing materials. Social media can be construed as a marketing medium. It’s best to discuss this with your franchisor directly and get expressed written consent before starting your own campaign.

Is it more important for franchises to have their own platforms (blogs, websites, etc.) or to be on other platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)?

I think it’s important to have both. Having your own website and your own blog helps build your identity and provides your fans a more intimate view into your company. Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter help your company reach a large audience very quickly. This becomes a mass marketing campaign to get your product out to a much larger audience and also manage your reviews.

Which social media endeavors by small businesses and franchises have impressed you?

The most impressive marketing campaign over the last year has been from Domino’s. As part of their “Oh Yes We Did” campaign, Domino’s rented the billboard above the ABC News ticker in Times Square. On this ticker, customer comments around the nation are displayed whether the comments are good, bad or neutral. Customers can send their comments in via the Domino’s website. I like this because it was bold and smart. This stunt showed consumers that Domino’s is 100% behind their product because they publicly showed all their comments. Needless to say, profits were up during that quarter.

Do most small businesses owners have time to maintain a social media presence? Are there services that can help them manage their voice and the stream of conversation about their business?

It’s certainly tough to manage social media when you are an operating owner. Bigger companies have employees dedicated to just this. With that said, there are a companies out there that help small businesses manage this process. The one that I use and know about is Sprout Social. SproutSocial allows businesses to efficiently and effectively manage and grow their social presence across multiple channels and turn social connections into loyal customers.

What mistakes should small businesses avoid when using social media?

If you are new to social media, be careful. You can make a lot of mistakes very quickly. I’ve seen companies get defensive about bad reviews or not respond (both are bad). An effective social media campaign is one that is communicative but very focused. If you don’t know what you are doing, watch your competitors. If you are using Twitter, tweet relevant information pertaining to your business and your sector. If you are using Facebook, post status messages about your company. The most important advice: Engage your customer as best you can. Get them to want to talk to you. Get them to want to tell others. Get viral.

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Facebook’s Big Bet: You Care About Your Social History

September 23rd, 2011 No comments

A few quick thoughts about Facebook’s announcements at F8 today. But, FIRST, an audio representation that sums up this post (brought to you by the with the help of the ingenious folks at

Admit it, you’d been bored with Facebook recently. The same old updates in your News Feed, updates from people that you don’t care about clogging your News Feed, not enough information. I think a lot of those problems have been solved. Some thoughts:

1. The Timeline is beautiful. Take a look. Looks like Flipboard for your life instead of for other people’s content. The bonus of being able to customize it is also a huge plus. Control over the new components of the profile is very important given how angry the community tends to get about changes to the platform. And, importantly, all of this seems very easy to do (unlike the labor intensive process of putting people into Circle on Google+). Putting other people in Circles is a pain in the neck because it’s not about YOU. Organizing your own information? That’s a little more fun. 

2. Depth over breadth. I think the implicit bet here is that Facebook is drawing a distinction between two types of social lives. In one, you share personal information with people that you are actually close to. In one, you interact with a wider set of more distant connections in order to gather information and get news. Twitter and Google+ fall in the latter. Facebook wants to be the former. And, it works for them. True, they’re hedging their bets and making the best of both worlds by creating Smart Lists and giving you the Ticker, which feel like Google+ and Twitter, respectively. But the fact that Facebook rolled out these features a few days before F8, to relatively little fanfare speaks volumes given the focus they’re putting on the Timeline and the Open Graph. This is about breadth vs. depth. And depth means richer more varied content (an important note for brands on Facebook – move beyond chasing “Likes” to ingraining yourself in the Timeline of your users). Facebook wants to be a deeper social network than Twitter and that’s the right move given the nature of the platform. Also, I think Google+ is an afterthought at this point unless they do something big.

3. Facebook is increasing the shelf life of social. Timeline allows you to keep track of your social history. You can easily go back and see what you posted in August of 2007. Compare with Twitter: Step away for 3 hours and you miss everything. It’s unwieldy and difficult to go backwards and see what you missed. This is a huge value increase.

For Zuckerberg and Facebook, an all-encompassing mechanism that allows instantaneous sharing and cataloguing of shared information is the ultimate goal. First, Facebook was about defining yourself through your connections. Then it moved on to defining yourself by static interests. Now, it’s moved on to defining you by what you share – it’s capturing the dynamic nature of the web.

Your reaction to the new features depends on where you fall on the sharing debate. Do you think that there is an intrinsic value to being able to share and catalogue what you do on the web or what you do offline and track on the web? Or do you find this intrusive and unnecessary? I’m in the former camp. Open Graph ties in your actions with all the apps that play a part in your life in one place – keep track of the music you listen to, the distances you run, the movies you see, the places you visit. And Timeline allows you to catalogue and remember everything you’ve done. I think this is a unique solution to the fragmentation problem created by the wide variety of apps and services that are being churned out at astonishing rates.

Twitter and Google+’s models focus more on your relationship with others  (Who can I follow? How can I transmit information?). Facebook is doing something unique here by putting the focus of a social network back on the individual user. Timeline and Open Graph are about tracking, sharing, and cataloguing your own behavior.

At a time when there’s constant fear that technology is zapping our attention span and decreasing the shelf-life of our actions, Facebook has come along and provided a treasure chest for us to store what we do. And there’s usually something valuable in a treasure chest.

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Designing the Future

September 7th, 2011 No comments

Sometimes, appearances do matter.’s Michael Kruse wrote  fantastic article on the rise of Oregon football. He started with a simple question and came up with an interesting answer. Here’s how he sets it up:

There is next to no reason the University of Oregon should have a good football team. Eugene is a small city and is not near a major media market, there’s very little local college-caliber talent, and for literally 100 years the Ducks did almost nothing but lose. But the past decade and a half has been different. They’ve been to the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and last year’s national championship game, and they will start this season Saturday night against Louisiana State in Arlington, Texas, ranked third in the country. How did this happen?

The answer:


(See a fully gallery of the various uniforms in all their glory here). And, don’t even get me started on how amazing their matte finish helmets are…

Yes, this is a case of style over substance. No, wait. It’s a case of style creating substance. The uniforms were the first step in a branding process. The uniforms are a dynamic, fresh, and different. In a market (college football) dominated by tradition and history, Oregon’s uniforms are disruptive. And that disruption has seeped into their playing style: uptempo, no huddle, predicated on speed. A fun offense. You’re a college freshman getting used to being away from home, enjoying campus life, and need to memorize a 100 page playbook? That’s probably pretty hard. But it might be a little easier when plays are called onto the field like this:

Go ahead and read the article for a more in-depth look analysis, but other than the fact that Oregon was smart enough to use design as a trigger, I think there are three major takeaways that other brands can take from this story.

1. Understand your target audience. When you’re building a college football program, you’re depending on the whims and desires of 17 and 18-year-old kids. And 17 and 18-year-old kids don’t have a lot of attention to spare. If you’re not one of the major programs in the country that can point to its tradition (Michigan is a good example), its ability to launch players towards an NFL career (Michigan is a good example), or an amazing stadium (Michigan is a good example) you have to find a hook to capture attention. Oregon realized that the bright shiny thing to capture a teen’s attention could actually be…a bright shiny thing (or 9 variations of that bright shiny thing). It doesn’t matter if the national media scoff at your uniforms or if traditionalists in the Big 10 think they’re an affront to the pageantry of college football. High school kids love flashy stuff. So that’s what Oregon gave them. At the end of the day, the most important constituency for any company are the people who buy the product. Critics, competitors, the blogosphere – they all create noise, but eyes should always be on the target audience.

2. Design isn’t superficial. Oregon’s football program has taken on the tone of its uniforms. The uniforms are unexpected, they’re evolving, they look sleek and make the players look like superheroes. And now Oregon has a playing style that perfectly matches that. The design gave Oregon an identity – no huddle, speed and finesse players, quick strike offense. You won’t see Oregon going to three yards and a cloud of dust or the Power I in those uniforms. The fact that design affects the product on the field (or the market) is no surprise. Take Apple for instance. Is the simple design of its products a product or contributing factor to the streamlined process of the applications that run on its Macbooks, iPhones, iPods, or iPads? I think it’s a driving force behind the functional simplicity. I think part of the fear behind Steve Jobs retirement is that Apple would lose this unique design aesthetic that has completely permeated its products and culture.

3. Success breeds imitation. Oregon was the first. They’re clearly not the last. Nike has taken its traveling uniform show to other schools. Georgia and Boise State wore unique uniforms in their opening games this year. Boise didn’t face a lot of criticism; Georgia did. The design has to match the perception of the product. And Georgia, a school with SEC tradition and Heisman winners, doesn’t fit in with these sleek, non-traditional uniforms. And then there’s the case of Maryland – who wore otherworldly garish uniforms against Miami (Under Armor is to Maryland what Nike is to Oregon). Another complete backfire. They went too far and looked haphazard. The truth is that design might be easy to change. But it needs to be thought out and done strategically. A company can’t just copy a competitor’s successful lead in terms of design or other branding activities. A company need to pay attention to its own identity and respect the perception of its identity.

Design is a superficial trigger for consumers – it needs to fit the product but can also help transform that product. The Oregon uniforms have done that wonderfully.

Oh, and one last, crucial point: Michigan’s uniforms are better.

Go Blue.

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Take It All: How Adele’s Capturing The Market

June 3rd, 2011 No comments

I’ve listened to the new Adele album, 21, a lot recently.  So have many people.

Adele’s success has been somewhat surprising. Compared to her contemporaries she is below the radar. She’s eschewed the bells and whistles and machinery that go along with record promotion in favor of letting the music speak for itself. And that is a smart move considering how good all the songs are. The material is beautifully produced and performed, but what really resonates are the vulnerability and rawness on display. That sort of honestly connects with people.  It certainly does with me.

Adele’s smart. She does one thing and she does it exceptionally well. Her singing connects with her fans on a visceral level. And that’s enough for her. But in today’s world, it’s not just enough to be good. You need to craft a presence – Twitter, Facebook, tons of appearances, licensing songs for use. Adele has risen to prominence by being content to perfect her craft in the shadows. That highlights the interesting fact that it can actually be more effective to have others market you instead of spending your own energy to get the word out. If you’re good enough, you can push a little and then rely on your community of supporters to carry you the rest of the way.

A recent Independent article about Adele talked about “how staying small has made her massive.” She quit Twitter two years ago, limits media appearances, and won’t play festivals. Yet, still, she’s sold 5 million copies world-wide and set a record for the longest consecutive stretch at number one by a female solo artist (11 weeks). For comparison’s sake, as of May 8th, Katy Perry’s latest album (with all the hoopla and publicity surrounding it and her) had sold a total of 1.45 million records in the US, while Adele had sold 1.55 million. For Adele, the music is actually selling itself.

Well, that’s not completely true.

The album, because of the strength of its content, has also been boosted by incredible word of mouth. By focusing on her content, Adele was able to attract and keep a group of diehard fans willing to spread the news about her talent.  Most times, the spectacle and the  marketing take a front seat to what’s actually being sold. Various reasons for that exist – in music, it’s most likely because the product isn’t actually that good.

I think there’s a great message in the Adele story. Focus on doing one thing and do it the best. Make sure that whatever you’re actually creating is strong enough to stand on its own before you worry about other things. This isn’t to say that you can’t market yourself or your product contemporaneously, but the primary focus should always be on making the end product as strong as possible. That’s how you can really differentiate yourself from your peers. Lady GaGa, for example, is an incredibly effective marketer, who also spends a lot of time focusing on her product (look at her live show or her songs, for instance, which clearly have an emotional resonance with her fans).

Now, who knows how much more successful Adele could be if she did do more to promote herself? But that’s not the point I’m trying to make. The point is that if that focus on marketing came at the expense of putting out a great product, success would be much more difficult.

Music is a tough example to use because of its inherent subjectivity and personal taste. But the “content first” goal applies across the board. If you’re a company and don’t know what your message is and what your audience wants, it doesn’t matter what your social presence is – you won’t create deep roots. If you’re a startup and you don’t pay attention to the what the fundamentals of your product/service are before adding on all the bells and whistles, you’ll be passed by. If you’re a politician, glean a clear message that mobilizes your base and then use them to spread it.

Because if you nail that one thing and you do it better than anyone else and it connects with people in a way that makes their life useful or better, your job becomes much easier. The Internet and social networks encourage communities and tribes centered around interests – if you speak to a need that someone has, a community will form around you. And then those community members becomes evangelists for you. That core constituency becomes your social proof to the mainstream that something noteworthy is going on.

So, of course, you have to cover all your bases, but make sure that you don’t lose sight of what is most important.

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